DALLAS – It was exactly the vibe expected of a clash between two division rivals separated by just a point in the standings, with the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference up for grabs.
Time and space were scarce.
Battles for the puck got messy.
And the margin for error was razor-thin, a lesson the Wild learned in just 2 minutes, 51 seconds.
That’s all it took for the Stars to set the stage for a 6-1 win in front of 18,532 at American Airlines Center that deflated the Wild on the heels of one of its most impressive wins Friday at home vs. the Golden Knights and earned Dallas a critical three-point cushion.
“We quit playing,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Simple as that.”
Three of those goals, two of which were registered on the power play, came in less than three minutes in the second period — more than enough to hold off the Wild, which had all but one of its 31 shots stopped by Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen.
After a scoreless first period, the Wild had an encouraging start to the second with pucks and pressure making their way to Lehtonen’s crease.
But a high-sticking penalty called against winger Jason Zucker on Lehtonen flipped the momentum.
The Stars capitalized at 8:58, with center Mattias Janmark deflecting a John Klingberg point shot by goalie Alex Stalock — who was tasked with finishing off the back-to-back after Devan Dubnyk starred during the 5-2 win over Vegas.
Two shifts later, the Stars scored again — off a blistering windup off the rush by defenseman Stephen Johns at 9:37.
On the shift after that, Suter was whistled for elbowing, and Dallas converted again with the man advantage. Captain Jamie Benn tucked in a loose puck in front at 11:49 to cap off the three-goal flurry.
“We’ve got to respond better after a goal,” Zucker said. “We’ve got to make sure we have a couple good shifts after that, make sure we get the momentum back. We didn’t do that.”
Dallas added a fourth with 5:54 remaining in the period on a backdoor shot by center Tyler Seguin, his team-leading 25th of the season. It almost tacked on a fifth when center Jason Spezza wired yet another puck by Stalock, but the goal was waved off and Spezza was penalized for hooking defenseman Jonas Brodin en route to the net.
That was the first of two power plays for the Wild to close out the period, but the team couldn’t find a groove.
The Wild finished 0-for-2 with the extra attacker, while the Stars were a perfect 2-for-2.
Dubnyk took over for Stalock to start the third; Stalock ended up with 25 saves.
The Wild attempted a comeback in the final frame.
Only 5:40 into the third, winger Mikael Granlund sprung Zucker for a partial breakaway on a slick saucer pass through the neutral zone and Zucker buried the feed for his sixth goal in eight games.
But the Stars snuffed out that bid with a key response goal at 8:05 when winger Alexander Radulov poked the puck by Dubnyk, who posted seven saves, before defenseman Dan Hamhuis’ point shot went in with 3:58 to go — the finishing touches on the Wild’s 15th road loss in regulation, which is tied for the most in the NHL.
“Once they got the second goal … it looked like, ‘Woe is me,’ and that was it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.