DALLAS -- The Minnesota Wild have waited a long time to win at American Airlines Center, over 10 years to be exact.
On Monday, they got two goals and an assist from Zach Parise in a 7-4 win against the Dallas Stars, as the Wild earned their first victory in Dallas since March 21, 2003 -- a span of 16 games.
Minnesota had not won in regulation in Dallas since March 8, 2002.
"I was real impressed with our guys to stick with it," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It felt like things were not bouncing our way, and even just given the history of everything in here, but they found a way to win. And I give them credit for continuing to play forward and stay with it, and finding a way."
"I would be lying if I didn't say it was [nice to win here finally]," Koivu said. "At the end, it doesn't matter where you win, you have to keep winning and we know that. It doesn't matter your opponent, we just have to keep getting better and try to get as many points as we can."
Dallas had led 2-1 after the first period, but trailed 4-2 at the second intermission.
Alex Goligoski gave Dallas the lead with his first of the season 5:31 into the opening period as he beat Backstrom with a 33-foot wrister from the slot. Derek Roy fed Goligoski, who is tied for the Stars' team lead with 16 assists, after stealing the puck from the Wild's Ryan Suter behind the Minnesota net.
Minnesota got a scare at 6:42 of the opening period when Clutterbuck had to be helped off the ice after crashing violently into the Dallas net with an apparent right leg injury. However, in somewhat amazing fashion, Clutterbuck returned to the ice early in the second and finished the game with two assists.
Clutterbuck was one player Yeo singled out for a strong performance in his postgame remarks to the media.
"Obviously, the shorthanded goal was such a huge part of the game, penalty killing, physically, that was great by him. I think his teammates recognized that for sure," Yeo said.
However, the Wild's spirits lifted a bit at 7:35, when Parise slid in his own rebound for his 13th of the season. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen had twice denied Minnesota wing Devin Setoguchi at close range, but Parise knocked the rebound off Setoguchi's second shot of the sequence out of the air. His attempt struck the crossbar and landed behind Lehtonen, but Parise got his stick in there to push the puck over the line to make it a 1-1 contest.
"It was a hard game. I don't think we started as well as we need to, but every time they scored, I felt like we responded and got one not too much later," Parise said. "I think we got better as the game went on. We're having fun and it's always fun when you're scoring and winning, and it's a challenge to keep that going and not get complacent."
Dallas' Eric Nystrom was tripped by the Wild's Jonas Brodin at 17:27, setting up the game's first power play. And the Stars needed just 20 seconds to convert, regaining the lead at 17:47 when Jaromir Jagr scored his team-leading 14th goal from the edge of the right faceoff circle. After Ray Whitney's blast was denied by Backstrom, Loui Eriksson slipped the puck over to Jagr and he knocked it into the open net to make it 2-1.
The Wild lasted little time tying the game for a second time early in the second when Koivu beat Lehtonen through the five-hole with a 27-foot wrister from the slot at 3:42. Parise picked up his second point of the night with the primary assist on Koivu's eighth of the year.
At 7:42 of the second, Parise made a strong bid to put Minnesota ahead for the first time as he tried to knock a rebound in after Lehtonen had made a pad save on a shot by Koivu. However, the goal was nullified when replays showed that Parise had pushed Lehtonen into the net.
However, the Wild did equalize at 9:33 and again it was Parise finding the back of the net for a 14th time this season and second time in the game. After Koivu won a faceoff with Dallas' Vernon Fiddler, who appeared to injure his hand on the draw, Koivu sent a puck toward the Stars' net that deflected off Lehtonen's right pad before landing at the skates of Parise who was just inside the right faceoff circle. Parise quickly buried a 13-foot wrister into the empty net to make it a 3-3 affair.
Minnesota then took its first lead of the night at 14:22 of the second when Cullen netted his fifth of the season, flipping a wrister into the far side of the Dallas net after a long-range blast by Pierre-Marc Bouchard deflected off Jared Spurgeon. Cullen corralled the carom and quickly finished from the right side.
But Dallas wasn't quite finished, getting a third goal from a defenseman at 7:02 of the third to tie the game yet again at 4-4. Philip Larsen's 24-foot wrister from the slot struck Backstrom on his glove side before trickling over the line, his second of the season. The play started when the Wild forward Mike Rupp lost possession in the neutral zone. Tomas Vincour then tapped the puck to Reilly Smith, who fed a streaking Larsen for the goal.
However, the Stars got a four-minute power play when Rupp was issued a double-minor after high sticking Whitney on the near side of the boards. But just 20 seconds into the power play, the Wild went ahead 5-4 when Kyle Brodziak scored his sixth of the year with Minnesota shorthanded. Clutterbuck had the initial shot from the left faceoff circle, which Lehtonen made a glove save on. But Brodziak crashed the net and tapped in the rebound despite failing to strike the puck cleanly.
"We had an opportunity to win. Seven minutes left, four-minute PP and you think you're in the driver's seat," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said on how crucial Brodziak's shorthanded goal was. "We made a pass, a D stepped up on our guy, turned it over. He jumped and capitalized. It's a lot of the story of our game tonight."
Minnesota added late goals by Dany Heatley, who netted his ninth with a backhand with 1:28 left. Lehtonen headed to the bench with 1:28 left and an empty-netter by Bouchard with 16 seconds left made it a 7-4 final.
Dallas got a pair of assists from Eriksson in the loss and Lehtonen made 35 saves in his 12th straight start for the Stars.
"I didn't think it was his strongest game," Gulutzan said of Lehtonen's performance. "He made some real good saves because he was taking in a lot, but that's what happens when you give your goalie too much. It was too much. I think he certainly calmed down in the third, but it was a lot to handle. A lot of zone time."
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