(The Sports Xchange) - Jason Spezza scored a goal and assisted on another in the second period as the Dallas Stars rallied, twice, beating the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Wednesday and taking a commanding lead in their first round playoff series.
With the Stars trailing 2-1 midway through the game, Spezza assisted on a Patrick Eaves power-play goal, then scored one of his own, giving Dallas a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series.
Ales Hemsky also scored, and Antti Niemi had 28 saves in his first playoff start for the Stars, who were the top seed in the West. They can close out the series in Game 5 on Friday in Dallas.
Minnesota got goals from Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle, taking 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period, but saw their momentum and the lead slip away.
Despite 19 saves from Devan Dubnyk, the Wild -- seeded eighth in the West -- have been pushed to the brink of elimination.
Minnesota dominated the third period, as Dallas was content to defend its lead.
The Wild out-shot the Stars 14-2, and had a 6-on-4 advantage for the final 84 seconds, after they pulled Dubnyk and Antoine Roussel of Dallas was whistled for high sticking. But the Wild could not get the equalizer.
The teams emerged scoreless from a first period that was not lacking in offensive chances in both ends of the rink.
Minnesota finally broke through at the 5:01 mark of the middle period, as the team’s most effective line scored off a rush to the net.
Niemi blocked a slap shot by Erik Haula but the rebound popped to the top of the crease.
Before the Dallas defense could swat it away, Nino Niederreiter chipped the puck toward the upper right corner of the net.
It deflected off Pominville and fluttered in, marking the first time in the series that the Wild had scored first.
Dallas got a power-play goal before the period was half over to tie the game, briefly.
Off a blue line pass from Jason Demers, Hemsky launched a rocket of a slap shot from the right circle. With Colton Sceviour posted at the top of the crease, blocking Dubnyk’s view, the puck had hit the back of the net before the goalie knew it was inbound.
The Wild went up 2-1 barely a minute later on a 2-on-1 rush to the net. Jason Zucker flipped a pass to Coyle, who had a step on Dallas defender Alex Goligoski from the blue line in.
With Goligoski hooking him and a delayed penalty upcoming, Coyle was still able to slip the puck around Niemi for his first goal of the playoffs.
Eaves re-tied the game on another Dallas power play a few minutes later, deflecting a knee-high shot by Kris Russel past Dubnyk.
Spezza’s goal late in the second gave Dallas a 3-2 lead. It came when a cross-ice pass by Demer’s deflected off Spezza’s right skate and into the net.