It turns out, the Minnesota Wild are capable of winning a game in just 60 minutes.
It can be done.
No overtime was needed, and therefore no shootout was needed in the Wild’s 2-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs (20-12-1) in St. Paul. Alex Stalock earned his first shutout with the Wild and fifth of his career. This comes just a game after getting the shootout win in relief and finding out he’ll be the main guy in net with the injury to Devan Dubnyk.
“We played a great 60-minute game as a group… I got to see a lot of pucks,” Stalock said, who made 28 saves.
The victory was the fourth in a row for the Wild (17-11-3), who have won six of their last seven games, and it was their first victory in regulation since beating the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 on Nov. 30. They’re also 7-0-1 at home since Nov. 14 and 12-4-1 overall since Nov. 9.
“I think we’re playing good despite still missing some very key ingredients,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “We’re starting to have success at home.”
Maybe it’s the former-team motivation that’s been such a boost for Stalock lately.
Last weekend, he was in goal to beat his former team in San Jose. He also had a cup of coffee with the Maple Leafs. He went from San Jose to Toronto at the 2016 trade deadline, but the Leafs were in the process of rebuilding. Stalock, from South St. Paul, went through waivers and then to the AHL. Essentially, the Maple Leafs didn’t give him the time of day.
Guess he got his revenge.
“The guys knew Alex… had gone to the Leafs and didn’t get a chance,” Boudreau said. “So they did a great job of blocking shots.”
The Wild defended with 21 blocked shots compared to eight for Toronto.
The Maple Leafs certainly had some of the better scoring chances in the game and went on the power-play four times, plus pulled their goaltender late in the third when it was already 4-on-4. Stalock saw the puck well and stopped plenty of close-range shots. It was his first shutout since March 2, 2015.
With Stalock playing solidly in goal, not much offense was needed. Tyler Ennis scored his sixth of the season with 1:54 left in the first period for a 1-0 lead. While Chris Stewart finished off a check, that left Ennis alone behind the net and free to get a feed from Ryan Suter to put in the net.
If Stalock was making a statement with his play, Ennis made one of his own. He came back to score a goal one game removed from his first healthy scratch.
“Everybody plays better with a chip on their shoulder,” Ennis said.
Mikael Granlund put up the insurance in the third period with his seventh tally of the season, scored from one knee in the slot on a pass through traffic from Eric Staal behind the goal line. It was Staal’s team-leading 15th assist of the season.
The second goal at 8:06 of the third perhaps showed how charmed the Wild have been lately. The Maple Leafs came out of the second intermission looking to tie the game, peppering the shots on goal and circulating the puck around the offensive zone.
Instead of it turning into a 1-1 game with Toronto cashing in, the Wild took advantage of an opportunity to put a little distance between them. Stalock was there to do the rest.
Stalock (5-3-1) with 28 saves. Frederik Andersen (17-10-1) with 24 saves.
The Wild are 7-2-0 all-time at home against the Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs went 0-for-4 on the power play. The Wild are 44-for-47 at home on the penalty kill. It’s a good thing the penalty kill is so good, because once again the opponent got more power-play chances than the Wild (0 for 1).
The scoreless drought reaches 22 games for captain Mikko Koivu, and he hasn’t scored a point in nine straight games.
The Wild welcome the Edmonton Oilers for a Saturday afternoon affair. The puck drop is set for 1 p.m.