ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Matt Dumba and the Minnesota Wild started a defining two-game stretch against the Dallas Stars with a determined performance.
They’re one step closer to a spot in the playoffs.
“That was what fueled the fire, just wanting to bury these guys,” Dumba said. “Not let them think that they could potentially get back into this thing by getting a couple victories against us.”
Dumba scored on a power play and finished with three assists for a career-high four points, leading the Wild past the fading Stars 5-2 on Thursday night.
“It’s something we talked about, making that gap even bigger and pushing more teams down,” said Zach Parise, who scored 59 seconds after Dumba in the second period and tacked on an empty-netter in the waning seconds.
Mikael Granlund sparked the Wild with a short-handed goal in the first period, set up by the first of two assists by Ryan Suter, and Jason Zucker scored on a power play with 11 seconds left before the second intermission.
Even more important than Granlund’s goal was the effort by the Wild that immediately followed it.
Tyler Seguin had set up Benn in the slot for the lead for the Stars less than three minutes into the game, and a high-stick double-minor penalty on Wild defenseman Ryan Murphy produced a four-minute power play. Granlund scored just 12 seconds in, and the Wild penalty killers took over from there.
“It was a big turning point, and it gave us a lot of life,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Jamie Benn and Devin Shore scored for the Stars, who have lost eight straight road games, including six in regulation. They’re just 1-7-2 in their past 10 games overall, staggering into position for the knockout punch to their postseason hope. They host a rematch with the Wild on Saturday night.
With only four games remaining, the Stars are five points behind current wild-card spot holders St. Louis and Anaheim in the Western Conference standings. The Blues have six games left, and the Ducks play five more times. The Stars also trail ninth-place Colorado by four points, with five games to go for the Avalanche.
“Every mistake we made ended up in our net, and the chances we had we didn’t finish on,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said, adding: “We’re going to compete at a very high level, and then the autopsy for us can take place.”
Devan Dubnyk stopped 29 shots for the Wild, who improved to 26-6-8 at home for the second-most points in the NHL. With five games to go, they’re up six points on the Avalanche in the race to clinch an appearance in the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
Dumba, who set a career high with his 12th goal on a blistering one-timer , and Zucker gave the Wild’s power play a badly needed boost. They had only one goal in their previous 26 opportunities until the sizzling second period. The Stars, meanwhile, were left shaking their heads about the opportunities they handed the Wild.
“I had a bonehead shot there on the penalty kill,” Seguin said, referring to the sequence before Zucker scored. “I can’t shoot far-side short-handed, and they go down and score. That’s a tough play.”
Dumba became the first Wild defenseman with four points in a game in franchise history. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who has missed the past seven games with a torn right hamstring, could start skating next week, Boudreau said before the game. Wild defenseman Gustav Olofsson left with an upper-body injury and was declared questionable to travel to Dallas. The Stars fell to 2-23-2 when trailing after two periods. Suter stretched his career high and franchise record to 45 assists. Stars defenseman Stephen Johns was being evaluated for a concussion after leaving in the first period with the injury. Zucker has three goals and two assists in three games against the Stars this season. Granlund’s was the 10th short-handed goal allowed by the Stars to match the second-most in the league this season. Granlund scored for the first time in 15 games since Feb. 27. Seguin has 27 points in 23 games against the Wild. Announced attendance was 19,350, the largest of the season for the Wild.
Stars: After the rematch with Minnesota, Dallas must wrap up the schedule on the West Coast with games at San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles.
Wild: Following the quick trip to Dallas, Minnesota plays its final regular-season home game on Monday against Edmonton. Then the Wild finish the schedule with the same three California road games the Stars have, against the Ducks, Kings and Sharks.
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