The Dallas Stars got everything they had hoped for from goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to add up to two points. Nilstorp stopped 31 of 32 shots in his NHL debut, but the Stars couldn’t muster a goal against the Minnesota Wild, and fell 1-0.
“I thought our start needed to be better,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Back-to-back, we seemed a little lethargic to start the game. I think both teams were, but if you want to win on the road you’ve got to be prepared. Sometimes you can get the game in the first 10 minutes like they did.”
After an energetic opening night in Dallas Saturday night, the pace was not as high as both the Stars and Wild were playing the second end of a back-to-back. But the Wild did get nine of the first ten shots on goal and their ninth shot produced the only goal of the game at the 8:11 mark of the first period.
Just as a four-on-three power play was expiring, Minnesota’s Zach Parise scored off a blast from the high slot. It was a tough sequence for the Stars, who had two players break their sticks during the penalty kill.
That was the only puck to get by Nilstorp, who turned in a stellar performance in his first NHL game. The 28-year-old, signed as a free agent out of the Swedish Elite League in June, was a rock in goal.
“I thought he was fantastic,” Gulutzan said. “I thought he was very calm in the net tonight. He did a great job.”
“He was unbelievable,” said Stars forward Jaromir Jagr. “He stopped everything. He was in the zone.”
Nilstorp had several big stops in the game, stopping a Dany Heatley power play bid in the first, a quality chance from Clayton Stoner in the second and a tough redirection by Cal Clutterbuck in the third period.
“It was fun to play out there, but it was kind of hard because we lost the game,” Nilstorp said.
His teammates were unable to generate much against the Wild and goaltender Josh Harding, who stopped 24 shots on the night in his season debut. Harding had a lot of help from his teammates, who blocked a total of 26 shots.
“We got the chance in the last minute, but otherwise they blocked all the shots,” Jagr said. “It was tough to get any chances. The power play, we just couldn’t get it in.”
That last minute chance came with the Stars shorthanded. Loui Eriksson won a puck battle along the boards and set up Ray Whitney, who broke in alone on net but had his shot from the left circle stopped by Harding.
It was a big night for Harding, who was making his season debut after announcing during the lockout that he had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“It feels good right now. It was a long time coming. It’s been a tough couple months here, and this has made it all worth it,” Harding said. “I can’t thank the team enough for having my back. They made some great plays and played great out there and made my job a lot easier.”
But all that made it tough on the Stars.
“We need to be better prepared to come in here so we can catch a team,” said Gulutzan. “Our preparation needs to be better.”
*The Stars went with the same set of forwards and defenseman as Saturday night’s season opener.
*D Aaron Rome missed his second straight game with a groin injury.
*RW Colton Sceviour was a healthy scratch for a second straight game.