DALLAS (AP)—Trevor Daley raised his stick, shut his eyes and scored the most important goal of a not so important game.
With nothing at stake but the sting of having blown a two-goal lead, Daley fired in the winning goal with 33.7 seconds left in overtime to give the Stars a 4-3 victory over Minnesota on Saturday. The short slapshot, the only shot in overtime for Dallas, bounced off goalie Manny Fernandez’s glove in what was the final moment of the Wild’s season.
“I just closed my eyes and let it go,” Daley said.
The victory—a franchise-record 53rd for Dallas—didn’t affect Dallas’ playoff position but the Stars nearly gave it away. Dallas had led 3-1 behind a solid start from backup Johan Hedberg, who stopped 19 shots before Minnesota’s Mattias Weinhandl and Marian Gaborik scored in an 11-second span with under 13 minutes left.
Hedberg, giving Marty Turco a rest before the Stars begin the Western Conference playoffs next weekend as the No. 2 seed, finished with 33 saves.
The Wild have been out of playoff contention since last week and the Stars, with two games left, can’t catch Detroit for the top spot in the Western Conference or fall to the third seed.
Dallas finishes the regular season on the road against the Red Wings on Monday and Columbus on Tuesday. The Stars return home next weekend for their first playoff game but are still unsure of their opponent.
San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado and Edmonton could all still finish as the No. 7 seed in the West.
“You just want to get this thing over with, get Monday and Tuesday over with, just start focusing and bear down,” said Mike Modano, who had an assist on Daley’s game-winner.
“It’s tough to go through these games because they don’t have any bearing.”
Coming off a rare three-day break—their longest since Olympics in February — the Stars didn’t give much rest to their top skaters. Modano and Sergei Zubov each had two assists.
Hedberg, making his 13th start, stopped several breakaways before he was caught out of position when Weinhandl came racing at him. Eleven seconds after that goal, Gaborik scored on a two-on-one with Weinhandl.
Minnesota outshot Dallas 16-4 in the third period.
“We had our chances. We could have won,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “But one mistake in overtime won it for them.”
The Stars began their scoring in the first period when Robidas’ shot toward the right post bounced out of Fernandez’s glove and into the net. Dallas built a two-goal lead in the second period on a one-timer by Morrow and a wristshot by Miettinen 90 seconds later.
The Wild end their fifth season in last place of the Northwest Division but with the team’s most wins (38) since its only playoff appearance in 2003. The Wild had 42 wins that season.
The offseason figures to be a busy one for Minnesota, which has just eight players under contract for next year.
“The season was a roller-coaster,” said Gaborik, whose 38 goals led Minnesota. “There was a lot of inconsistency. …Overall it wasn’t bad but we want to get to the playoffs. That’s our goal so we fell short.”
With his assist on Miettinen’s goal in the second period, Zubov extended his points streak to nine games in which he’s appeared. … The Wild were 14-28 this season in one-goal games. … Daley became the 16th player to score a game-winning goal for Dallas this season. …Modano now has 50 assists this season and is two shy of 700 for his career.