OTTAWA – Blocking 26 shots from the Senators wasn’t the only way backup Alex Stalock helped the Wild to its first victory of the season.
The goalie was also active outside the crease, skating out to handle the puck — a tried-and-true skill of Stalock’s that was on display in the 2-0 victory for the Wild, which was the last team in the NHL to secure a point after starting 0-4.
“I’ve been doing it my whole life, playing a lot of the pucks,” Stalock said after his sixth career shutout in his first start of the season. “I feel comfortable doing it. Hopefully it’s one thing that’s an advantage when our team’s in, help relieve some pressure on the defense.”
That’s not the only upside to Stalock’s mobility.
It also stymies the opposition’s forecheck, enabling the Wild to transition the puck before the other team can set up in the offensive end.
“The less time you can spend in your zone, the better,” winger Zach Parise said. “All these game plans when you’ve got an active goalie like that is keep it away from the goalie. … He’s got that ability to do that, and it helps us get out of our zone quicker.”
But Stalock, of South St. Paul High School, doesn’t just scoot behind the net to scoop up dump-ins.
In the first period Monday, he strayed all the way to the blue line to lift a loose puck into the Wild’s bench that a Senators player was chasing down. It was a heads-up play that might have looked bizarre but was effective since it thwarted a potential scoring chance.
What was also deft was Stalock keeping the puck low enough so that it didn’t sail over the glass and ding the Wild with a delay-of-game penalty.
“I was on the bench,” Parise said. “Smart hockey. One of their guys even skated by our bench and said, ‘That was a smart play.’ A couple inches higher, though, we would have been in the box. But it was a good play by him. Smart, smart play.”
Center Victor Rask played a team-low 6 minutes, 6 seconds, but that was enough time to score the game-winning goal in the third period.
“Every time his line was up there was a penalty,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “That’s why his minutes were down. And then the first time there wasn’t a penalty in probably 15 minutes that his line was up, he went out and scored. So it was really nice for him.”
Rask also contributed on draws, winning four out of five faceoffs after going 0-for-8 Saturday in his season debut.
Winger Mats Zuccarello did not accompany the Wild to Canada and is expected to miss this week’s road trip because of a lower-body injury suffered Saturday in the 7-4 loss to the Penguins. “I hope it’s no more than a week,” Boudreau said. “There’s talk of him joining the team, but I don’t know. If it would be, it would be in Montreal.”
Despite finding a winning formula Monday, Boudreau said he would probably change the lineup for Tuesday’s game at Toronto.
Although Boudreau acknowledged it would be easy to go back to Stalock, he didn’t confirm a starter. And winger Gerald Mayhew, who was called up from the American Hockey League on Sunday, could make his NHL debut.