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Stalock, Suter and Spurgeon help Wild end third-period curse

It would have been OK, Bruce Boudreau figured, if the Wild hadn’t managed to pull out a 4-2 victory at Calgary on Saturday. “We needed it,’’ he said. “But if it hadn’t happened, we would have gone back to the drawing board and worked. Because we weren’t going to give up.’’

Yet there was no time like the present. Boudreau looked and sounded a little relieved after the Wild finally broke its pattern of being in position to win in the third period, only to lose its grip. It was all the more impressive that it happened in the second game of a back-to-back set in Winnipeg and Calgary, a night after a disappointing loss to the Jets.

The Wild looked tired in the first period, but a marvelous performance by goalie Alex Stalock allowed them to stay even until they got the offense going. Earlier on Saturday, Boudreau was lamenting how every mistake the Wild made seemed to cost it dearly; against the Flames, they made some significant blunders, but they managed to win anyway.

Some postgame thoughts and quotes:

--Boudreau readily admitted his own error in challenging Calgary’s tying goal late in the second period, scored by Sean Monahan with 27.5 seconds left. It wasn’t a good choice, and it put the Wild in a tough position when the challenge was lost. Teams now are assessed a minor penalty when they lose an offside challenge.

That put Calgary on a power play to start the third period with the score tied 1-1. Things were made worse when Ryan Suter was penalized for slashing, giving the Flames a five-on-three for 1:11. Kris Versteeg walked the goal line from the left, used some fancy stickwork and scored to give Calgary its first lead.

“I was so mad we gave up another goal in the last minute of the period,’’ Boudreau said. “Once I (made the challenge) and (the official) started going over it, it’s funny how fast you have to look at that thing. Then I looked at it more and said, ‘Oh, crap. It’s not offside.’

“But (the Wild) came back. They were determined.’’

--Suter scored the tying goal at 10:33 of the third on a nice drop pass from Erik Staal. After the game, Boudreau jokingly thanked Suter for bailing him out after his lost challenge. Suter was glad to bail himself out, too, after taking that slashing penalty that helped the Flames take a 2-1 lead 43 seconds into the third period.

“It was important to have a good third period,’’ Suter said. “We talked about it before the third. Going down five-on-three and them scoring a goal doesn’t help us, but we found a way to battle back, and that’s what good teams do.’’

Spurgeon’s winning goal was a beauty, a hard, high shot from the right circle that sneaked past goalie Mike Smith’s shoulder and under the crossbar. Spurgeon also blocked four shots as the Wild registered 22 blocks.

--Luke Kunin took a step forward in his third NHL game. He had two assists—his first two NHL points—and four hits. He played with poise and confidence, earning minutes in key situations as the game wore on—including a big penalty kill in the final four minutes.

The Wild will take a day off Sunday, then resume practice Monday before starting that six-game homestand Tuesday against Vancouver.

Stalock to start at Calgary as Wild looks to get off the ropes

Saturday morning, when the Calgary media asked Bruce Boudreau how his team is coping with multiple injuries, he knew just what would cure its ills. “A win would help,’’ the Wild coach said. “We go home after tonight and have six games at home. So it’s a big game for us. That’s how you cope; you just keep thinking of the success you could have.’’

The Wild will try again Saturday to escape its sluggish start, facing Calgary to end this season’s first set of back-to-back games. It will be missing yet another forward, as Landon Ferraro—who left Friday’s loss at Winnipeg with a hip flexor injury—will not play. Mikael Granlund (groin) won’t be in the lineup, either, ensuring he gets another three days of recovery time before potentially resuming play Tuesday against Vancouver to start that six-game home stand.

That again forces the Wild to use all the healthy players on the trip, putting out a lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

As expected, Alex Stalock will get the start in goal, his second of the season. Boudreau said he felt a little bad about the timing of the start, coming at the end of a back-to-back set when the Wild is feeling some pressure. Still, he’s confident Stalock will handle it.

“He’s been real good,’’ Boudreau said. “You hate to sometimes throw him in the back-to-back when you’re dealing with some adversity. But I know the guys like him, and I think they’ll come to play for him.’’

Asked about Devan Dubnyk’s play this season, Boudreau said he isn’t concerned—though he admitted it hasn’t been up to the goalie’s usual high standards. Dubnyk is 1-2-1 with a goals-against average of 3.80 and save percentage of .888.

“All of us that are used to seeing elite playing, when you’re getting average playing, you seem to worry,’’ Boudreau said. “But there are times you go through these things.

“I’m not worried. His past three years have been incredibly good, and I expect him to be incredibly good down the road here.’’

Stalock stopped 38 of 42 shots in his only previous start this season, a 5-4 shootout loss at Carolina two weeks ago. He has a GAA of 3.75 and save percentage of .905.

Boudreau was emphasizing the positive the day after a 4-3 loss at Winnipeg. The Wild rallied from a 2-0 deficit and led 3-2 until the Jets tied it with 32.7 seconds left in the second period. Winnipeg scored the winner with 6:46 left to continue the Wild’s pattern of being unable to lock down victories when it is ahead or tied late in the game.

“We did a lot of good things,’’ Boudreau said. “We’ve played five teams now that all have winning records, and we were tied or leading with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. We’ve got to learn how to keep a lead right now. But we’re very close to being a good team again.’’

As a reminder, it’s a late game tonight, starting at 9 p.m. Minnesota time.

Final, 10/21 1 2 3 F
Minnesota 2-2-2 0 1 3 4
Calgary 4-4 0 1 1 2

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