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ST. PAUL, Minn. – Jason Spezza scored the go-ahead goal with his skate, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Eaves each scored on a second-period power play to give Dallas' lagging special teams a lift, and the Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Wednesday night to push their series lead to 3-1.
Antti Niemi assumed the net from Kari Lehtonen, who started the first three games, and made 28 saves for the Stars. They'll host Game 5 in Dallas on Friday.
Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle both gave the Wild the lead with second-period goals, but they weren't able to sustain the momentum from a spirited comeback in Game 3 for the entire night.
The Wild finished the game with a 6-on-4 after a high-stick penalty on Antoine Roussel with goalie Devan Dubnyk pulled, but the Stars tightened up and allowed only one shot on target over the 84-second two-man advantage.
By the time the first period was half-finished, the Stars had cast aside their sluggishness from the previous contest that saw them manage only 17 shots on net. After a scoreless but fast-paced first period, the floodgates opened on both sides in the five-goal middle frame.
Pominville, playing on that thriving third line with Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter, scored his third goal of the series by crashing the crease and knocking in Niederreiter's fluttering rebound shot off his shin.
Then the Wild got a little sloppy, and the Stars seized the opportunity. With Colton Sceviour screening Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, Hemsky's slap shot evened the game with 6 seconds left on the first Dallas power play.
Coyle answered 63 seconds later with the most skillful goals of the series, fighting through a would-be hooking penalty on Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski as he nudged the puck forward, snagged it in the air and set it back down to set up a right-left deke on Niemi and backhand it in the corner.
Niederreiter took a slashing penalty a few minutes later, though, and Eaves followed with a redirection that eluded Dubnyk. Finally, with 69 seconds remaining before the second intermission, Jason Demers launched a shot that ricocheted perfectly off the front of Spezza's left foot for a 3-2 lead.
The Stars have a dangerous power play that finished fourth in the NHL during the regular season at 22.1 percent, but the Wild killed 12 of 13 penalties over the first three games.
After acquiring Niemi in a trade with San Jose last summer to pair him with Lehtonen, the Stars carefully rotated the 32-year-olds throughout the season, with each goalie getting exactly 25 wins. Lehtonen posted a shutout in Game 1, but he wasn't as sharp in Game 3, making the transition a natural one for coach Lindy Ruff.
NOTES: Of the Wild LWs with upper-body injuries, Thomas Vanek is closer to returning than Zach Parise, whose status coach John Torchetti labeled "week to week." Said Vanek: "I really ramped it up the last few days here, and I feel good, but again, I just need time, and there's not a whole lot of it right now. I'll just keep pushing it and see where it goes." ... Niemi raised his career postseason record to 36-26. ... Stars D Kris Russell returned to the lineup after missing the last game with an illness. ... Haula has 10 goals and 14 assists in 30 games including the playoffs under Torchetti, who replaced Mike Yeo in mid-February.