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Wallstedt’s Wild debut spoiled by Stars, who seal season sweep with 7-2 rout

DALLAS — Kicking off his NHL career against a tough team on the road worked for Jesper Wallstedt.

That meant the crowd would give the goaltender an earful, or at least that's what Wallstedt wanted to happen.

"It's always fun to have all the fans and everything against you," he said. "I kind of like when they're booing. I hope they do that tonight. That just fires me up a little bit extra."

But another cold performance by the Wild led to more cheers than jeers.

They were schooled by the Dallas Stars 7-2 on Wednesday night at American Airlines Center to get swept by their Central Division rivals and spoil Wallstedt's 27-save debut.

"This is not on him," winger Mats Zuccarello said. "This is on us players. Didn't do a good enough job of helping him."

This was the third time this season the Wild were dominated by Dallas. Stars goalie Scott Wedgewood faced just nine shots through the first two periods before totaling 21 saves against the Wild, who are sputtering; they've dropped six of their last seven games.

Not even Wallstedt's first start in the NHL could spark the Wild.

"It's too bad we didn't play better in front of him," defenseman Jake Middleton said.

Wallstedt was called up from the minors Sunday with Filip Gustavsson still injured and after backing up Marc-Andre Fleury the next night during the Wild's 4-0 loss at home to Dallas, Wallstedt was informed Tuesday he would be starting the rematch Wednesday.

His dad, Jonas, made it to the game in Dallas after flying in from Sweden, and Wallstedt became the sixth goaltender drafted by the Wild to play for the team.

The 21-year-old is also the youngest netminder in Wild history and youngest goalie to appear in the NHL this season. Drafted in the first round, 20th overall, in 2021, Wallstedt went 29-24-5 with a 2.63 goals-against average, .911 save percentage, three shutouts and a goal — yes, Wallstedt has a rare goalie goal on his professional résumé — with Iowa in the American Hockey League before getting this opportunity with the Wild.

"It wasn't good enough," Wallstedt said, "and just gotta realize that and move on and put this game in the bag, and just try to help and continue to get better and be ready for the next opportunity that comes."

Wallstedt did receive some boos when he was introduced as the Wild's starting goalie, but what happened next made the crowd celebrate.

After the Wild had a Jason Robertson goal overturned because of a coach's challenge, Dallas still exited the first period with a 1-0 lead when Joe Pavelski sent a Zuccarello turnover top-shelf on Wallstedt at 16:45.

"I felt like they really didn't have to work hard to get the goals," Zuccarello said. "I gave away the first one."

An unfortunate bounce for Wallstedt and the Wild doubled their deficit.

Former Wild defenseman Ryan Suter's dump-in caromed off the board and into the slot to center Matt Duchene, whose shot fluttered past Wallstedt 4:28 into the second.

Sign up for our Wild Update newsletterBOXSCORE: Dallas 7, Wild 2

With 5:01 to go in the period, Roope Hintz capitalized off the rush during 4-on-4 action.

The Wild went the final 12:26 of the second without a shot on goal. That was the fifth consecutive period they had gone without scoring, and their last 5-on-5 goal was three games earlier.

"We kind of let that get us frustrated and didn't really make a push until early in the third there," Middleton said. "You know the rest."

Winger Matt Boldy deflected in a Brock Faber shot at 4:22 of the third, but the Stars quickly snatched back momentum on goals from Robertson (8:05) and Nils Lundkvist (9:26) before a 5-on-3 finish by Ryan Hartman at 11:03. Tyler Seguin (16:10) and Sam Steel (1:43 left) added the exclamation point for Dallas, which is on a 10-game point streak against the Wild (7-0-3) that includes an 8-3 rout on Nov. 12.

The Wild power play went 1-for-2, while the Stars were 0-for-2.

"I felt like I could have made a couple better saves there, too, to keep us in the game," Wallstedt said. "Maybe could have turned the tide a little bit."

Outscored 19-5 in the series, the Wild mercifully don't have any more meetings with the Stars on their schedule.

But they'll have to fix their game to make up the ground they're losing in the Western Conference playoff race.

"Not good enough on our side 100%," Zuccarello said. "We played a solid third period and still they get three goals. They get some bounces, and they're a good team. If you give them chances, they're going to score.

"We just have to play a little smarter hockey."