The Wild has yet to clinch a playoff spot, but the team has made its path to the postseason a little easier.
By upending the Dallas Stars 5-2 Thursday night in front of a season-high announced crowd of 19,350 at Xcel Energy Center, which extended the team’s point streak to a season-best seven games, the Wild ensured its Central Division rival can’t catch it in the standings — getting one step closer to locking down a berth.
“That was what fueled the fire, just wanting to bury these guys,” defenseman Matt Dumba said.
Dumba led the charge, scoring and adding three assists for a career-high four-point showing. Up front, Mikael Granlund had a goal and two assists and Zach Parise extended his point streak to five games with the game-winner and an empty-netter with 17 seconds left.
“Guys are playing good in front of me,” said Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, who made 29 saves. “We’re reading off each other well like we do when we’re successful.”
Stuck at 86 points with four games to go, the Stars can’t match the Wild’s current total of 96. The Avalanche are still within striking distance, but Colorado has to close a six-point gap with five games to go.
The Stars started like a desperate group, scoring just 2 minutes, 51 seconds after puck drop when captain Jamie Benn one-timed the puck by Dubnyk.
Dallas had a glorious chance to increase that lead when it received a four-minute power play after defenseman Ryan Murphy caught winger Antoine Roussel with a high stick that drew blood.
But instead of Dallas pulling away, the Wild tied it after Granlund capitalized on a 2-on-1 at 16:02 for his 20th goal of the season. It was his first goal in 14 games and the Wild’s sixth shorthanded goal. The Wild also prevented the Stars from even generating a shot on goal.
“It was a big turning point and it gave us a lot of life after that,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
On its first power-play look, the Wild moved ahead at 7:19 when Dumba’s rising one-timer went over goalie Kari Lehtonen for his 12th goal of the season, a career high.
Defenseman Ryan Suter’s helper on the goal was his second of the game and 45th of the season, resetting his career high and the team’s franchise record by a defenseman in a season after breaking those records (which he owned) on his previous assist. The two-point effort also tied his career-best point total and the top output for a defenseman in team history at 51.
Only 59 seconds after Dumba’s goal, Parise redirected in a Granlund pass.
“He’s one of those guys that if you go to the net with your stick down, more often than not he’s looking for you and he’s going to find the pass,” Parise said. “That was a world-class play by him there.”
The Stars responded with a tip by center Devin Shore at 9:42, but their comeback took a hit with 11 seconds left in the second after winger Jason Zucker one-timed the puck inside the near post on a power play. The Wild finished 2-for-3 with the man advantage, Dallas 0-for-4.
The Wild finished the game without defenseman Gustav Olofsson, who suffered an upper-body injury and is “very questionable,” Boudreau said, to accompany the team to Dallas for the rematch Saturday.
“These games are still huge,” Dubnyk said. “They’re still important for clinching, important for standings, important for getting ready for the playoffs. So we just have to stay sharp.”