Wild sneak out win over Stars, move into first in Central Division
DALLAS -- Even at their worst, the Minnesota Wild keep finding ways to win.
Jason Zucker was in the right place at the right time to score the winner with 6:45 to play and Minnesota beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 on Saturday night after blowing a four-goal lead.
Zucker skated into the paint as goalie Kari Lehtonen blocked Mikael Granlund's wrist shot from the left corner. The puck bounced off Zucker and into the goal just before the net came off its moorings. A replay review confirmed the score.
"I was just trying to drive the net, and (Granlund) threw it there," Zucker said. "Lehtonen got his stick on it and kind of popped up, hit my shoulder and went in."
Minnesota is 16-1-1 in the last 18 games, and 18-2-3 since an overtime loss at Dallas on Nov. 21.
The Wild finished the first half of the schedule 27-9-5 for a franchise-record 59 points to lead the Western Conference. Chicago also has 59 points, but Minnesota has a better points percentage.
Saturday's game looked like an easy win after three Minnesota players scored in the first four minutes, and the Wild led 4-0 before the first period ended.
The goals by Mikko Koivu, Eric Staal and Matt Dumba knocked Stars starting goalie Antti Niemi from the game without a save.
Chris Stewart also scored against Lehtonen for a 4-0 lead at 12:45 of the first.
The Stars rallied with Antoine Roussel scoring seven seconds before the first period ended, Jiri Hudler and Tyler Seguin adding second-period goals and John Klingberg tying it on the power play with 8:47 remaining.
Barely two minutes later, Zucker broke the tie.
"That shows the resiliency we have as a group," Zucker said. "We still feel that we have the confidence to win those games. I think we showed that tonight."
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau was relieved.
"That's what you need, and that's what good teams do," he said. "They have pushback, be defiant. They don't allow the crowd or the other team to push right to a victory.
"You could call it luck, but (Zucker) went to the net and he did the things you're supposed to do, and when you do that, usually you get success."
The Stars and coach Lindy Ruff were deflated.
"We had full possession and gave the puck away. It should have been out of the zone," Ruff said.
"After the first 15 minutes, we found our game. It's tough when you get down the way we got down. In your own building, you can't make those mistakes."
Darcy Kuemper made 34 saves for the Wild, and Lehtonen stopped 26 shots.
Koivu scored unassisted 1:19 into the game. Johnny Oduya blocked Koivu's shot, but the puck went in off Dallas defenseman Stephen Johns.
At 3:00, Staal kept the puck on a 2-on-1 break and shot it between Niemi's legs.
Dumba scored at 4:00 on a wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle, and Stewart tipped in a shot by Jordan Schroeder to make it 4-0.
Zucker had a goal and an assist, and Granlund assisted twice.
Klingberg assisted on both second-period goals, giving him eight points (two goals, six assists) in the last six games.
Seguin had a goal and an assist.
NOTES: Niemi entered the game 11-4-2 with a 1.94 goals against average against the Wild in his career. ... Staal has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his last five games. ... Granlund, who assisted on Dumba's goal, has at least one point (two goals, two assists) in each of Minnesota's three games against the Stars this season. ... Stewart's eighth goal equaled his total from last season. ... Benn has 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 29 career games vs. Minnesota. . Dallas recalled D Patrik Nemeth from a conditioning assignment with Texas of the AHL, but he did not play.
Wild: Finish a quick two-game trip on Sunday at Chicago. It will be the first game this season between the two best teams in the conference.
Stars: Begin a three-game Eastern trip at Buffalo on Monday afternoon.