North Stars 4, Blackhawks 3
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) _ Darcy Wakaluk, tending goal in place of disgruntled Jon Casey, earned his first Minnesota victory and Ed Belfour lost his 1991-92 debut as the North Stars beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 Saturday night.
With 2:26 to play - just 20 seconds after the Blackhawks’ Jeremy Roenick had tied the score - Mike Craig outraced defenseman Steve Smith to a loose puck in Chicago ice and beat Belfour with a backhander.
Wakaluk started only because Casey, unhappy with the North Stars’ latest contract offer, didn’t show until just before game time. Wakaluk, acquired from Buffalo during the offseason, stopped 29 shots - including Mike Stapleton’s breakaway with 6 1/2 minutes to go and Brent Sutter’s close-in attempt with one second to play.
Belfour, a contract holdout until last week, made 19 saves but continues to be haunted by the North Stars.
Belfour went 43-19-7 with a 2.47 GAA last season and won the Vezina (top goalie) and Calder (top rookie) trophies for leading Chicago to the NHL’s best regular-season record. But Minnesota upset the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, with Belfour going 2-4 with a 4.07 GAA.
Karl Dykhuis’ first career goal gave the Blackhawks a first-period lead. Dave Gagner and Brian Bellows scored midway through the second to put Minnesota ahead before Stapleton’s power-play goal tied it at 2:24 of the third.
Shane Churla took Mike Modano’s pass and beat Belfour at 6:55 of the third for a 3-2 Minnesota lead. With 2:46 to go, Roenick scored his ninth goal of the year on a scramble in front of Wakaluk.
Paid attendance was 15,183, a sellout, but there were 2,906 no-shows because of the record-setting storm that dumped more than 28 inches of snow on the Twin Cities.
The clubs are scheduled to meet again Sunday in Chicago.
Wakaluk learned he was starting about an hour before the game.
″It was a surprise,″ he said. ″But as a backup goalie, you try to prepare like you’re going to play every game. There’s a lot of circumstances that happen during a season.″
Casey dressed quickly after the game and sidestepped the media. He and North Stars management were scheduled to meet Sunday.
Thursday, he got a rare night off, with Wakaluk playing in the 8-1 loss at Pittsburgh.
″He had a crazy number of great saves in that game. Tonight, he was there for us again,″ Stars coach Bob Gainey said. ″He needed to get some production (from his teammates) for the work that he’s done and we needed that kind of game to get us out of what we have been in.″
Wakaluk knew he had to be good.
″Belfour’s one of the best goaltendes in the league,″ he said. ″You know he’s not going to give up many.″
Belfour said he gave up too many Saturday.
″I can play better than that,″ he said. ″I’ve got to come up with a few big saves.″
Although Roenick scored, Chicago assistant coach Darryl Sutter said the team needs more offense from Roenick and Steve Larmer.
″Larmer should be the best forward on the ice,″ he said. ″When you break it down, it’s simple. Somebody like that has to be better than their best players. Our top scorers have to play more desperate.″