ST. PAUL, Minnesota — With a record-setting run by goalie Ben Bishop, the Dallas Stars have surged forward in the Western Conference race.
They proved in Minnesota they’re plenty capable of winning without him, too.
Radek Faksa, Roope Hintz and Joel L’Esperance scored in a span of 2:22 early in the second period, and the Stars hung on to beat the Wild 4-1 on Thursday night after Bishop got hurt.
Bishop, a former standout at the University of Maine, had registered three consecutive shutouts going into Thursday’s game.
Former Boston Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced in relief of Bishop, who made seven saves and established a franchise best by stretching his scoreless streak to 240:53 before exiting with a lower-body injury.
“Obviously we didn’t want to see Bish leave the game, but we’ve got all the confidence in the world in Doby, and it didn’t faze us at all,” captain Jamie Benn said.
Bishop, who has a 24-14-2 record, leads the NHL with a 0.933 save percentage, is second with a 2.05 goals-against average. He missed five games with a lower-body injury in November and was sidelined for six games with an upper-body injury in February.
Khudobin, who’s on his sixth team in 10 years in the NHL, has given the Stars a solid tandem this season.
Stars coach Jim Montgomery, who also was a star player at UMaine, declined to speculate on when Bishop might return.
“If he doesn’t get hurt, maybe he gets another shutout, I don’t know,” Montgomery said. “The goal that went in, he’s big, and it probably doesn’t go anywhere, right? But Khudobin makes saves he can’t. That’s why they make a great duo.”
Alexander Radulov added an empty-netter for the Stars, who have won six of their last seven games — five in regulation.
Jason Zucker had the only goal for the Wild, who took another hit in the Western Conference wild-card race with their third straight loss. They’re in ninth place with 74 points and 11 games to go, trailing Arizona by three points for the final spot.
The Stars, meanwhile, moved into a tie with St. Louis for third place in the Central Division with 79 points. They have 12 games remaining, as do the Blues.
“I loved the way we played,” Montgomery said.
The opposite sentiment was expressed down the hall. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau refrained from sharing much insight with reporters, holding back to avoid “ripping players.” They offered plenty of their own critiques, though.
“It’s got to come from leadership and guys playing the right way and holding guys accountable,” left wing Marcus Foligno said. “Right now we’re just letting things slip away. I wish I had the answers.”
At the 4:11 mark of the second period, Blake Comeau sent an off-balance one-timer from right inside the blue line into the slot where Faksa blindly tipped it past Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk as Comeau fell down for his fourth goal in his last 10 games.
Hintz, who scored twice Tuesday in a 3-0 win at Buffalo, knocked in a sprawling rebound just 1:14 later that sneaked between Dubnyk’s pads and crept across the goal line. Then a mere 1:08 after that, Benn’s backhand pass from the boards was deflected in by L’Esperance for his first NHL goal.
The goalie change immediately followed, except this switch was made by the scoring team. That’s because Bishop was injured.
Khudobin, a seventh-round draft pick by the Wild in 2004, picked up right where Bishop left off. Zucker ended an 0-for-18 slump by the Wild on the power play over their last six games with his rebound backhand midway through the second period, but that’s all they managed.
Minnesota’s five-game homestand started sluggishly with a 3-0 loss to Pacific Division leader San Jose on Monday.
This was already going to be a critical response for a team still trying to find some momentum in this sidewinding season dented by the loss to injuries of top-scoring defenseman Matt Dumba and captain and center Mikko Koivu. Throw the standings into the equation, and this matchup became one of the Wild’s most important games of the month. They fell flat again, falling to 1-6-3 in their last 10 home games since Jan. 19.
“It’s not a matter of nobody wants to,” left wing Zach Parise said. “It’s just out of sync.”