Strange things seem to happen when the Minnesota Wild play the Dallas Stars in Big D. Why?
It happened again last night. The Minnesota Wild were seemingly in control of a tough, hard-nosed game versus the former Minnesota franchise, the now-Dallas Stars, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Ahead by a 3-2 score early in the third period, the Wild were on track to win their 4th game since the Olympic break ended. And then, as has happened so often in Dallas...
...the Wild's train derailed, just outside 'Victory Station' of D-FW's Trinity Railway Express. Again.
The Wild have managed to craft an all-time 4-16-6 record in the Metroplex, including this year's two losses (a 4-0 whitewashing, on Jan. 21st, was the other disaster in Big D this season), against a Dallas Stars team which is struggling to stay in the Western Conference playoff race. A victory last night, and the Wild would have opened up a seven-point lead on the currently-8th place Stars; now, the Wild only have a 3-point lead as they head into tonight's home game vs. the St. Louis Blues, a team which is so hot, they may be able to be No. 1 in the Western Conference, and win the President's Trophy for best overall record in the regular season, if they keep up their winning ways.
The fourth home game in eight nights for the Stars was the best-attended game since Norm Green did his now-infamous Mayflower move, and hijacked the then-North Stars from Bloomington to Big D in 1993. The reason? 'Mike Modano Retirement Night', as his No. 9 jersey was retired and moved to the rafters forever. But even all that wasn't enough to stop the Wild, as Erik Haula did his best to keep the Wild in the game, until Cody Eakin tripped (and nearly slewfoot) Haula as he was going in against Dallas starting goalie Kari Lehtonen. The resulting crash knocked Lehtonen out of the game, gave the Stars a 5-minute, all-you-can-score power play as Haula was assessed a major and a game misconduct for his actions, and screwed the Wild out of any momentum for the rest of the evening.
Now, that wasn't the losing goal; Keith Ballard served that up, on a platter, when his errant pass hit Dallas' Erik Cole instead of Clayton Stoner, Ballard's defensive partner. The resulting breakaway turned into the margin of victory after Cole scored, leaving the Wild empty again in the 'Plex.
The question on the floor, then: Why does this keep happening? Why does the Wild have such an awful record in Dallas?
I can only come up with three possible reasons:
1. The way the schedule is set up, the Wild and Stars seem to always play when one or the other team is on a back-to-back. They may be thinking about the previous game, or the next one; but they sure aren't thinking about THIS one, and that's the problem.
2. The home team is always setting up some special event for when the other team is in town. Modano night could (doubtful, but go with me here) have been 'retaliation' for the Stars being offered up as the opponent for the Wild's nightcap apperance in 'Hockey Day Minnesota', the Fox Sports North-conceived celebration of Minnesota hockey. In fact, of the eight HDM's since the series started in 2007, Dallas has been the opponent more than any other NHL team (3 times), and holds a 1-1-1 record in those games (winning in a shootout in 2007, losing in regulation in 2012, and losing in OT this year on Nate Prosser's rebound, 3-2, on Jan. 18).
3. There really may be some actual animosity between the two teams building, as there already is amongst the fans of the two teams (Minnesota fans still equate today's Stars, with the Norm Green-era group from the mid-90's; Dallas fans hate anything Minnesota, going back to the Cowboys' heyday, and so on).
Wild fans (at least the older ones, like me) especially relish any victory over the former North Stars, it doesn't matter how, where, or when. Dallas fans equate beating the Wild with picking on baby brother: 'But Mom, it's just SO fun to see him like that'.
Someday, these two teams will meet in a playoff series. That will indeed be a series for the ages.
Here's hoping that day is soon.