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Unsung players continue to come through for Wild

The names of the Minnesota Wild's scratches are more noteworthy than the names in the starting lineup; the team's four players on injured reserve are four it relied on most in the first half of the season.

The names of the Minnesota Wild's scratches are more noteworthy than the names in the starting lineup; the team's four players on injured reserve are four it relied on most in the first half of the season.

Saturday night, though, they watched from the press box as the Wild beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 in overtime.

Without Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Josh Harding and Jared Spurgeon, the Wild again found a way to win, overcoming a steep shot differential to take down the franchise that once called Minnesota home.

Somehow, the Wild won their seventh game in nine tries.

The Wild opened 2014 with a game that felt like a must-win. They entered a Jan. 2 game losers of six straight, all in regulation, setting a franchise record. Had they lost, it's unlikely coach Mike Yeo would have returned to the bench.

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Instead, they started their winning streak.

Saturday night, their latest win came on the backs of unlikely heroes.

Defenseman Nate Prosser, a healthy scratch for long stretches earlier this season, netted the game-winner in overtime. It was the second goal of his season -- the first came Thursday night and also was the game-winner. In net, Darcy Kuemper, another unlikely star as of a few weeks ago, stopped 33 shots in his fourth straight start.

"You have to hit the bottom before you can start climbing back out of it," Ryan Suter said. "We hit bottom, we lost a few guys and everyone is just picking up the slack from having top guys out."

Kuemper, just 23, continued to exemplify the way the Wild have won.

"He was awesome -- plain and simple," Yeo said. "He looks confident. You see the way he comes out of the net and he's making some plays with the puck. We were under siege for much of the night, but there were times when he came out of the net and made some plays and relieved some of that pressure.

When you see that kind of confidence, your team feeds off it."

He's far from the only Wild player to step up in the absence of key teammates. It's been Yeo's favorite cliche of late: A different player can be the hero every night.

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Saturday night, Prosser played the role. He crashed down on a loose puck and fired home the game-winner with 2:18 remaining in overtime.

"Guys are having a smile on their face and we're confident," Prosser said. "There's nothing better right now."

The night started with Erik Haula, who was playing for the Gophers last season. The fourth-line center made a pretty chip up the boards and scored his first career goal in the first period unassisted.

"It took me a while to kind of get over it and for the chills to go away," Haula said. "It was unbelievable."

Dallas had the better chances for much of the game, especially in the third period. But Kuemper continued his hot play.

"Getting a bunch of starts in a row here, I'm gaining experience and just building confidence," he said. "Especially with the roll we're on, it's allowed me to be confident and just play my game and get the job done."

Minnesota 3, Dallas 2, 1OT

Dallas 0 1 1 0 -- 2

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Minnesota 1 1 0 1 -- 3

First Period--1, Minnesota, Haula 1 (unassisted) 7:11.

Second Period--2, Dallas, Garbutt 10 (Fiddler, Peverley) 11:57. 3, Minnesota, Suter 6 (Mitchell, Brodin) 14:09.

Third Period--4, Dallas, Chiasson 9 (Goligoski, Seguin) 9:32 (pp).

Overtime--5, Minnesota, Prosser 2 (Niederreiter, Coyle) 2:42.

Shots on Goal--Dallas 9-13-11-2--35. Minnesota 3-6-8-2--19.

Power-play opportunities--Dallas 1 of 3. Minnesota 0 of 3.

Goalies--Dallas Lehtonen 17-13-8 (19 shots-16 saves). Minnesota Kuemper 4-2-0 (35-33).

A--19,192 (18,064). T--2:36.

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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