As the puck rolled off his stick before he could unleash a shot just inches outside the crease, Wild center Eric Staal could have easily thought this was the beginning of another futile night.
But he didn’t.
Despite being stuck in his longest goal drought to open a season, the veteran felt better about his play and was set on persevering. After all, this was another example of how close he was to ending the streak.
“I feel like if I consistently do that, get those chances,” Staal said, “then I’ll be able to cash in.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Soon after that blown opportunity, Staal scored on consecutive shots just 1 minute, 15 seconds apart before setting up another to spur the Wild to a 3-0 win Tuesday in front of 17,189 at Xcel Energy Center that notched back-to-back victories for the first time since Feb. 26-March 2.
“You gotta be determined to break through, do your job and be a contributor to this group,” Staal said. “That’s what I’m counting on doing, and the biggest thing is getting wins and we got that tonight.”
Despite the score suggesting a cruise-control performance by the Wild, this was very much a patchwork effort.
The team was shorthanded most of the game, with winger Jordan Greenway leaving in the first period and not returning after sustaining a heavy check. Goalie Devan Dubnyk also exited the action after a second-period collision. His nine saves, combined with 16 from backup Alex Stalock in relief, stymied a usually high-octane Oilers offense. It was just the second time in franchise history two goalies appeared in a shutout win.
“That was our most complete game this year,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Staal opened the scoring 11:33 into the first when his backhand slid by Edmonton goalie Mike Smith, the latest he recorded his first goal of the season (ninth game) in his career.
On the team’s very next shot, Staal tallied his second on another backhander at 12:48.
“It’s amazing what a little confidence will do,” Staal said.
Defenseman Carson Soucy threw the puck on net that Staal retrieved, his first NHL point. Greenway was the one who passed off to Soucy and after he did, Greenway was crushed by the Oilers’ Josh Archibald and left the game.
Boudreau said it’s possible Greenway accompanies the team to Nashville for its next game Thursday.
Later in the frame on the power play, specialist Brad Hunt used his patented one-timer to make it 3-0 at 16:46. The goal was the defenseman’s team-leading fourth and sixth point.
Three goals were the most by the Wild in a period this season, but the team’s play in the second was just as important in converting the win.
Less than two minutes into the period, winger Ryan Donato crashed into Dubnyk after he got tied up with Edmonton’s Brandon Manning and fell to the ice. Dubnyk spun and fell on his back and after getting evaluated, he was replaced by Stalock.
“I don’t know what part of his body he hurt,” Boudreau said.
Donato was penalized on the play for interference, a challenging spot for Stalock to start since the Oilers’ power play entered the game tops in the league.
But the Wild’s penalty kill was airtight, with Stalock stopping the only shot he encountered.