CALGARY, ALBERTA – Several hours before his team played Calgary, Alex Stalock had a pretty good idea of what the Flames' strategy would be.
"The first 10 minutes, they're going to try and win the game,'' the Wild goaltender predicted. "I'll come out and play as strong as I can.''
Calgary might have succeeded if not for Stalock's stellar play in Saturday's first period. And when the Flames rallied to seize the lead in the third period, the Wild gave its goaltender the support he needed, fighting back with a pair of goals to grab a 4-2 victory at the Saddledome.
The Wild often appeared sluggish in the second game of its first back-to-back set this season, but Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon scored in a span of 1 minute, 35 seconds midway through the third period to end the team's two-game winless streak.
"That was huge,'' Suter said. "We stuck with it and kept putting pucks at the net, traffic at the net, and we were able to get a couple of goals.''
Stalock held off the Flames for the first 39 minutes, and when the Wild gathered itself in the second period, Chris Stewart gave it a 1-0 lead with a five-on-three goal.
Sean Monahan tied it with 27.5 seconds left in the period, as Troy Brouwer pulled a bouncing puck away from Suter in the corner of the Wild's zone and fed Monahan for the goal. The Wild hurt itself further when coach Bruce Boudreau challenged the goal, drawing an automatic penalty when it was ruled onside. When Suter was called for slashing early in the third period — giving Calgary a five-on-three advantage for 1:11 — Kris Versteeg's goal gave Calgary a 2-1 lead before the Wild made its final push.
The game marked the sixth time in six games the Wild had been tied or leading in the third period this season, and just its second victory.
"They were determined tonight that they weren't going to let what's happened in the previous four of five games happen,'' Boudreau said, referring to the Wild's habit of letting games get away in the third period. "We needed it.''
As Stalock expected, the Flames poured it on right from the start, overwhelming the Wild in the first several minutes. When Mikko Koivu was penalized for tripping only 47 seconds in, Stalock immediately showed how prepared he was. Early in the Flames' power play, he slipped, fell on his back and lost his stick — and then, the Wild got trapped in its end.
Stalock was battered by six shots — most from point-blank range — and used his quickness and guile to snuff out all of them. He faced plenty more during the period, as the Wild's errant passes and carelessness with the puck prevented it from generating much offense. The Wild's backup goalie finished with 35 saves in his second action of the season.
"[Stalock] was huge," Boudreau said. "The first five minutes, [the Flames] could have had two. Tonight, he got rewarded.''
The Flames outshot the Wild 18-8 in the first period. The Wild played with more control in the second period and got the break it needed with two Flames penalties.
With Michael Stone in the box for holding and Brouwer in for interference, the Wild had a two-man advantage for 1:18. Stewart scored with one second remaining in the five-on-three, knocking in his own rebound near the left goalpost.
Brouwer got his revenge in the period's final minute. Stalock sent the puck around the boards through the right corner, and when Suter couldn't corral it, Brouwer snared it. Monahan — who knocked a shot off the goalpost earlier in the period — got behind the defense to put Brouwer's pass behind Stalock.