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Cole nets game winner as Stars defeat Wild

The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars did franchise icon Mike Modano proud with a hard-fought 4-3 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night before a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center. Prior to the game, Modano's trademark No. 9 was raised to the rafters at the end of a ceremony that spanned nearly an hour.

"I thought the buzz in the building was awesome," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said. "That one had playoff atmosphere, playoff intensity. The only damper is our goaltender."

Dallas left winger Erik Cole, who had a goal and an assist, scored the game-winner for the Stars, capitalizing on a bad pass from Wild defenseman Keith Ballard for the eventual game-winner with 4:49 remaining in regulation.

The Stars (31-23-10, 72 points) got a three-point performance (one goal, two assists) from center Tyler Seguin to end Minnesota's five-game winning streak.

However, the Stars lost starting goalie Kari Lehtonen after a collision with Wild center Erik Haula knocked his helmet off and drew blood 6:37 into the final period. Lehtonen stopped 26 of 29 shots before leaving the game.

Haula earned a boarding major and a game misconduct.

"Obviously (he's) not good," Ruff said of Lehtonen. "He (Haula) went in hard, hit the crossbar hard. Likelihood it's a concussion on just a dirty play. He should be suspended. Fourth-liner takes out our goaltender."

The Stars found the back of the net early when center Jamie Benn scored his 25th of the season from the right circle just 31 seconds into the game. Benn's wrister, which came after a pass from fellow center Rich Peverley, beat Kuemper top shelf on the short side to give Dallas an early 1-0 lead.

However, Minnesota pulled the game level with 3:28 remaining before the first intermission when Haula scored with the Wild shorthanded. After Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski couldn't control the puck near the Stars' blue line, Minnesota center Mikko Koivu executed a cross-ice pass to a streaking Haula, who beat Lehtonen top shelf with a wrister from the left circle to make it 1-1.

Dallas had gone on the power play when Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner was called for delay of game at 16:14 after inadvertently shooting the puck over the boards.

The Stars regained their advantage early in the second when rookie right winger Alex Chiasson scored his 11th of the season on a backhanded tip-in. Benn won the initial faceoff in the right circle before Seguin took a shot from the left point that looked like it was stopped by Kuemper.

But the puck trickled through Kuemper's legs and Chiasson quickly slid it over the line with a backhand to make it 2-1.

"We turned over way too many pucks tonight all night long and we gave up way too many odd-man rushes and I don't feel like we were on top of our game the same way," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said. "We gave up more odd-man rushes tonight than we gave up in the last month."

Minnesota tied it yet again at 11:15 of the second when center Charlie Coyle scored a power-play goal. Lehtonen had denied shots by Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin and left winger Matt Moulson, but Coyle's wrister found the back of the net.

The Wild then took their first lead 1:23 into the third when center Kyle Brodziak capitalized on a bad pass inside the Dallas zone for his sixth of the season. Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon made a dangerous cross-ice pass from the left circle, which Brodziak intercepted before beating Lehtonen with a wrister from the left circle to make it 3-2.

After Lehtonen was tended to by the Dallas medical staff, he left the ice for Tim Thomas, acquired in a Wednesday trade with the Florida Panthers. Thomas was making his Stars debut and stopped all six shots he faced.

Dallas answered when Seguin scored a power-play goal at 11:11 of the third after he collected his own rebound and tapped it in for his 29th of the season.

Kuemper stopped 34 of 38 shots for Minnesota.

NOTES: G Niklas Backstrom, RW Justin Fontaine, D Nate Prosser and C Mike Rupp were scratched by the Wild. ... D Aaron Rome was the lone scratch for Dallas. ... Former Dallas Stars F Mike Modano, the career leader among American-born players in points and goals, saw his No. 9 raised to the rafters in a pregame ceremony at American Airlines Center. ... Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor is a former teammate of Modano's in Dallas. ... The goal by Dallas C Jamie Benn 31 seconds into the game gives the Dallas captain points in four straight games. ... Minnesota C Cody McCormick and LW Matt Moulson were each making their Wild debut after being acquired from Buffalo prior to Wednesday's NHL trade deadline. McCormick and Moulson each played for the Sabres in Dallas on Monday. ... Announced sellout attendance was 19,109.

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