DALLAS – Asked Monday morning how he planned to match the Dallas Stars’ star-studded Jamie Benn-Cody Eakin-Tyler Seguin line, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, the art of the deadpan, didn’t miss a beat: “Well, right now we have four checking lines.”
Too bad there was no drummer in the vicinity for the rim shot.
The Wild has scored five goals in the past four games and two goals or fewer in eight of its past nine. Monday night, after Boudreau scrambled all four of his lines in a fruitless attempt to spur his feeble offense, the Wild rallied twice from one-goal deficits to force overtime and earn a point in the standings before falling for the sixth time in nine games 3-2, courtesy of a Benn OT dagger.
“It’s frustrating because we can be so much better,” said center Erik Haula, whose third-period goal forced overtime. “You look at the game, until we got that power-play goal, I think we can be a lot better. That is the frustrating part for everybody. We just have to be better.”
Boudreau was OK with the “hard-earned point” and how the Wild got better as the game went along, but it only got better because it wasn’t good early. His line changes didn’t have the desired effect, and he had to tinker some more.
“That wasn’t working very well trying to get a spark,” Boudreau said. “It looked like we were skating in quicksand there for a while.”
But after Nino Niederreiter tied the score on a late second-period power play, the Wild got stronger. It didn’t cave after Brett Ritchie scored 61 seconds into the third. Three minutes later, the reunited line of Niederreiter-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville teamed up for Haula’s equalizer.
The Stars, power-play free until halfway through the third, predictably got two in a row less than three minutes part. But the Wild’s penalty kill came up big to push the game to the extra session.
But in OT, eight days after Matt Dumba delivered Darcy Kuemper and the Wild an OT win in Ottawa, Eric Staal fouled up a 2-on-1 with Charlie Coyle. On the next shift, Mikko Koivu emerged with Mikael Granlund, the two forwards in the New Jersey overtime last month.
Late in their shift, Koivu wheeled the top of the Dallas end and put Granlund in a terrible spot with an 8-foot pass. Seguin met Granlund head-on, and the Stars transitioned as Granlund picked himself off the ice.
Asked if he should have done something different, Koivu said: “It’s not a game of ifs. I lost the puck, and that’s it.”
Seguin fed Benn in the left circle, and if Kuemper got any deeper in his crease, he would have been in the net. Benn wired a shot top-shelf, short-side to stop Dallas’ nine-game overtime losing streak. Kuemper said he backed off because defenseman Jordie Benn, Jamie’s brother, skated alone to the back door.
“I was trying to play in between and when you’re in between, that’s what happens,” Kuemper said.
Kuemper was solid though, making 29 saves.
After a scoreless first period and a second period that opened with a second straight putrid Wild power play, the Stars jumped out to a 1-0 lead on defenseman Jamie Oleksiak’s second goal in 84 straight games after Ryan Suter’s offensive-zone turnover.
Granlund fed Niederreiter for the tying goal (Koivu picked up his 400th career assist, too), and after Dallas regained its one-goal lead, Haula tied it.
Poor Pominville, often snakebit, first clanked the right post, then the left post from point-blank range after Niederreiter won a board battle and Haula fished out the puck. But after the pipes, Haula crashed the net and scored his first goal since Oct. 18.
“We are fortunate to get a point out of this game,” Niederreiter said. “We weren’t playing the way we should’ve played. I felt like we were a little sloppy, making too many mistakes.”