Minnesota Wild defenseman Nate Prosser celebrates after scoring the winning goal on Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen during overtime.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Nate Prosser’s Saturday started with a throwback to his roots, watching his high school team in Elk River play in and host the prep portion of Hockey Day in Minnesota.
Prosser, the Minnesota Wild defenseman, put a finish on the day devoted to hockey in the state in a way only a movie writer could fathom.
After watching Elk River beat Stillwater while waiting for his own game to begin, Prosser scored in overtime to give the Wild a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars, the team that used to call Minnesota home.
"Oh my gosh, what a day," Prosser said. "What a day. Started out in the morning, just turned on the TV and watching down at ‘The Pit’ and watching Hockey Day and cheering on my boys, the Elks. They came out with a big win. Just at an all-time high right now, I can’t believe it, just with what happened."
With three career goals, Prosser has scored game-winners in the past two games as Minnesota has won seven of its past nine games. Prosser broke a 67-game goalless drought in a 4-1 win against Edmonton Tuesday.
Prosser was jokingly asked if Saturday’s goal with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in overtime was the biggest goal of his career.
"Yeah, by far," Prosser said. "Yeah, there’s not many of them, so it’s pretty easy to say. It was a great day all around. As a team we’re feeling good right now. Even though, like I said, they were kind of taking the play to us, we all knew on the bench if we stuck with it, if we stuck with the game plan, we were going to be alright."
Erik Haula scored his first NHL goal. Ryan Suter added his sixth goal of the season for the Wild, who gained separation from Dallas in the Central Division, and Darcy Kuemper made 33 saves in goal to win for the third time in four straight starts.
Haula, who’s played in the past on Hockey Day in Minnesota as University of Minnesota forward, started the scoring after chipping the puck out of his defensive zone and speeding past the defense for a breakaway.
"Oh my God, something you dream about," Haula said. "It’s a long time coming. It’s something I’ve definitely been thinking about. It was unbelievable, the reaction from the crowd and a standing ovation. It took me a while to kind of get over it and chills to go away, but it was unbelievable."
Prosser’s late-game heroics would cap the Wild’s night, and Hockey Day in Minnesota.
"If there’s any undecided votes on the next mayor of Elk River, I think we cleared that up tonight," coach Mike Yeo said. "But all kidding aside, that’s a very fitting way to end Hockey Day here."
Nino Niederreiter’s shot from the slot was blocked by Dallas’ goaltender Kari Lehtonen, but Prosser was on the back side and shot the rebound through Lehtonen’s legs as he slid across.
Prosser has come up with two big goals in back-to-back games, but wouldn’t call game-winners his specialty.
"I wouldn’t go that far," Prosser said. "I just kind of rolled with it from last game. I’m thankful for that opportunity to get out there at the end and have that chance."
The fact Prosser was on the ice in overtime in an important divisional game speaks to how far he’s come this season. Prosser was scratched in 26 of the season’s first 38 games. He was a healthy scratch in 13 straight games before entering the lineup on Dec. 23. He’s been a mainstay since.
Prosser has played in 13 straight games, skating at least 15 minutes in each of the eight games with Jared Spurgeon on injured reserve with a foot injury.
And he was on the ice in overtime, scoring another big goal.
"Goal scorer, he’s going to want power-play time," Suter joked. "He always shows up with a smile on his face, whether he’s playing or not. To see him chip in is awesome. He’s a great guy, great teammate, everyone loves him. You saw when he scored how excited everybody was."
Yeo quipped "baby steps" when asked about Prosser on the power-play. But the coach is happy with Prosser, who was an extra defenseman earlier in the season.
"We’re real happy to have that moment because talk about a guy who goes out and does all the thankless things, doesn’t get a lot of those opportunities to get the glory," Yeo said. "Certainly he’s a guy that night after night gives other guys that opportunity."