ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – The Wild ran off 12 straight wins earlier this season, though it’s what they’ve done following their rare losses that has them sitting atop the Western Conference.
Darcy Kuemper stopped 34 shots, Erik Haula had a goal and an assist and Minnesota beat the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Thursday night.
Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon also scored for the Western Conference leaders. Minnesota, which lost 1-0 to Anaheim on Tuesday, hasn’t lost consecutive games in over two months and extended its point streak against the Stars to seven games.
“Lot of resiliency. Good leadership. That’s what good teams do,” said Jordan Schroeder, who assisted on Haula’s second-period goal.
The Wild are 8-0 in their past eight games after a loss, and they haven’t lost two in a row since Dec. 2. Even with Chicago’s five-game winning streak, Minnesota has managed to build a seven-point lead over the second-place Blackhawks.
“Today, it was goaltending, but I think for the most part, it’s the desire to win and we’ve put ourselves in a good position and we want to continue to stay in that position,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “So there’s a really good profound desire on this group to succeed.”
The Stars, meanwhile, lost for the seventh time in eight games. Cody Eakin scored his second goal this season and Kari Lehtonen had 23 saves for Dallas.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” forward Patrick Eaves said. “I thought we’ve been playing some pretty good hockey and not getting results. It’s just the way it’s going, but we’ll work our way out of it.”
The Stars came out firing early, looking determined to build any kind of momentum in what’s been a rough February. The teams appeared headed to the first intermission scoreless before Curtis McKenzie took a goaltender interference penalty with 40 seconds left.
Mikko Koivu won a faceoff and got the puck to Jason Pominville, and he zipped it off to Suter for a one-timer over Lehtonen’s glove with less than a second to go. It was the defenseman’s eighth goal of the season and first in 12 games.
It was that kind of night for the Stars.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been through a stretch like this. This stretch has been incredible,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.
Minnesota went up 2-0 at 4:51 of the second when Schroeder, off a breakaway feed from Koivu, found Haula in front of the net. Haula poked it past Lehtonen for his 12th goal of the season.
The Stars avoided their sixth shutout of the season at 5:39 of the third when Eakin took a rebound off Antoine Roussel’s shot and beat Kuemper stick-side to make it 2-1.
Spurgeon put a backhander past Lehtonen at 13:04.
Wild RW Nino Niederreiter received a five-minute interference major for upending Patrick Sharp in the final two minutes. Niederreiter was tripped by Radek Faksa just before the incident. Faksa received an instigator misconduct. Stars D Stephen Johns missed the game with an illness. Suter’s eighth goal of the season tied his career high. He has four eight-goal seasons in his career, three with the Wild. He entered the game tied for second in the NHL in plus/minus. The Stars are 1-8-0 in their past nine road games.
Stars: Begin a five-game homestand against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.
Wild: Play the sixth of an eight-game homestand against Nashville on Saturday night.
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