Eric Staal came into the season with goals against most of the other teams in the NHL. He was just missing his former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the new expansion team, Vegas Golden Knights. After Thursday’s two-goal effort in a 4-2 Minnesota Wild victory, Staal has a goal against all 31 NHL teams.
That’s right, Staal scored the game-winner and an empty-net goal to bring his season total to 10 and help the Wild (12-10-3) to a much-needed win. It came in their first-ever meeting against the Vegas Golden Knights (15-8-1).
The Wild snapped a two-game losing skid with the win, plus Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves and kept the Golden Knights off the board for most of the night. Allowing just two goals is a big improvement for a team that allowed six and seven goals a game the last two times on the ice.
“I think we could do better, but I liked what I saw much better than the previous two games,” said coach Bruce Boudreau.
Staal broke the tie game with 12:05 left in the third period for a 3-2 lead after a great feed from Matt Dumba. Staal added the empty-netter with a bouncing-puck shot from the neutral zone with 5.1 ticks left on the clock.
Staal keeps his points lead for the Wild with 23, plus he is now the second player to hit double-digits in the goal column with 10. Jason Zucker assisted on the first Wild goal, giving him 21 points for the season with 13 goals and eight assists.
The teams skated to a scoreless first period before Mikael Granlund scored his sixth of the season with about three minutes left in the second period to put the Wild up 1-0. Unfortunately, Vegas scored early in the third with goals a couple minutes apart from Brayden McNabb, his first of the season, and Jonathan Marchessault to take a 2-1 lead.
The pair of quick goals was a downer, but the Wild came right back. Jonas Brodin scored his second goal of the season 48 seconds later.
Dubnyk bounced back and only allowed those couple of goals to Vegas early in the third. He also saved the game with about a minute left when he came back to the side of the net and reached out with his paddle to make a sprawling save on Marchessault’s shot at the open net. Without a stick in the right place at the right time from Dubnyk, the shot would have most likely tied the game.
“I thought he made great saves when he had to,” Boudreau said. “He made a big save in the third when we needed it.”
Dubnyk (10-7-2) with 29 saves. Malcolm Subban (4-2-0) with 28 saves.
The Wild are 4-0-1 in their past five home games and improved to 7-3-2 on the season at home.
Mikko Koivu is scoreless in 16 games. He did not register a point against Vegas.
This marked just the second time the Vegas Golden Knights have lost two straight games in regulation.
Jared Spurgeon, who missed the past two games with a groin injury, will be out for at least the weekend, Boudreau said after the game.
With an assist, Zucker has 14 points in his last 13 games.
The Wild’s home penalty kill was 3-for-3 and improved to 33-for-35 on home ice.
The Wild host former coach Mike Yeo and his St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center Saturday night. The game comes one week after the Blues beat the Wild 6-3 in St. Louis. The game is an earlier start with a 5 p.m. puck drop.
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