It was as if the Wild was playing against itself.
The Stars had been mired in a slump, winning just once in their previous six games, while the Wild’s baggage included a three-game losing streak.
Dallas struggled to get pucks behind goalie Devan Dubnyk, the same problem the Wild was having at the other end with Ben Bishop. And neither team’s power play could convert despite plenty of chances.
Even Wild winger Luke Kunin and Stars defenseman Roman Polak looked identical after dropping their gloves for a second-period fight, peeling away from each other with similarly bloodied, battered faces.
But this mirror image eventually shattered, and it was the Wild left to pick up the pieces after the Stars broke the stalemate for a 2-1 overtime victory Saturday night in front of an announced 19,074 at Xcel Energy Center that sent the Wild into the four-day holiday break shouldering a season-high four-game slide.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I was really disappointed for the players because you can see they stayed on the bench and they hung their heads. They really wanted this one.”
After all but 12 seconds had elapsed in an extra period that featured close calls at both ends — including back-to-back shots off the post from each side — Boudreau started to brainstorm his shootout order.
“I figured it was done,” he said.
That was more than enough time, though, for Dallas winger Alexander Radulov to wire a short-side shot by Dubnyk, giving the Stars a victory with 10 seconds left on the OT clock. Bishop totaled 30 saves.
“I came off the post a little bit,” said Dubnyk, who made 25 stops. “Got my foot jammed up against the post. … It’s just a bad goal.”
Overtime was an appropriate ending considering how even the struggle was between the Wild and Stars, with one team applying pressure before the other would respond in kind.
The two clubs even shared looks on a string of Wild penalties, with center Eric Fehr getting stopped on a shorthanded breakaway.
Overall, the Wild survived four Dallas power plays — improving to 20-for-20 on the penalty kill over the past nine games.
But the Wild also couldn’t capitalize when it earned an extra attacker.
Its best look came after Polak picked a fight with Kunin, who seconds earlier finished his check on Polak.
Aside from each player receiving a five-minute major for fighting, Polak was tagged with an additional four minutes for roughing and instigating and a 10-minute misconduct.
“I didn’t like a hit he had on me earlier in the game, and I was just trying to be physical and do what I can to help,” Kunin said.
During the four-minute power play, the Wild put just one shot on net. The team finished 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
“Those are the times you’ve got to put teams away,” Boudreau said. “You have no choice. That’s what you’ve got to do.”
And because the Wild didn’t, that paved the way for Dallas captain Jamie Benn to open the scoring 1:58 into the third, when he directed in a centering feed from Radulov.
Since the Wild had managed only two goals over its previous three games, that tally looked like it might be enough. But with 2:03 to go in regulation, winger Jason Zucker buried a loose puck in front — a finish the Wild hopes is a steppingstone to more production after the break.
“It definitely wasn’t a lack of effort,” Zucker said. “Every single guy from Duby on out was working hard. Sometimes it’s just not enough.”