Rarely do NHL backups get the opportunity to bounce back from tough outings.
Usually worked into the rotation on a spot start, they tend to be back on the bench the next time out with the No.1 resuming control of the crease.
But with Devan Dubnyk still on the mend from a fall in Tuesday’s win over the Oilers, Alex Stalock got the chance to rebound from a 4-0 miscue to the Predators Thursday in Nashville.
And Stalock took advantage of the opportunity, turning aside 30 shots in a 5-1 rout of the Kings Saturday at Xcel Energy Center that extended the Wild's rhythm to 3-1 since last Sunday.
“That’s one thing you don’t get sometimes, [the chance] to get right back in there,” Stalock said. “It’s good to do that.”
Stalock was especially clutch in the second period during a lull for the Wild’s offense.
After Los Angeles tied it at 1, Stalock was key in helping the Wild not fall behind and give up more goals in quick succession – a costly habit so far this season.
One of his best stops came on winger Jeff Carter, as Stalock kept out a Carter redirect – losing his stick in the process.
“He kept us in when we needed to be kept in,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “The competitive fire that he has, he wasn’t happy with his game in Nashville and he comes right back and you could tell he was on point in everything.”
The result improved Stalock to 2-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.
Although Dubnyk earned the win Tuesday in the 3-0 victory against Edmonton, Stalock played a valuable role then, too – coming on in relief after Dubnyk was injured to help seal the shutout.
“Al is great,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “He's a great team guy. He comes to work every day and works incredibly hard and pushes guys. He's reaping what he deserves. It's awesome. It's great to see. I know everyone is pumped for him.”
Stalock’s performance wasn’t the only positive Saturday.
-The Wild received offensive contributions from each line, with 11 different players notching at least a point.
Dumba led the pack with two, and centers Joel Eriksson Ek and Mikko Koivu buried their first goals on the season.
“As a team, we like to think we’re pretty deep and can play four lines,” said defenseman Jared Spurgeon, one of the goal scorers. “I think when you play simple hockey and get it in and start cycling the puck and get it moving, we’re going to be able to create some stuff. We just have to be able to bury our chances.”
-After center Eric Staal tallied the go-ahead goal late in the second to put the Wild up 2-1, the team added insurance in the third – much-needed improvement for the offense. The three-goal outburst started 28 seconds in with Eriksson Ek’s goal.
“We haven’t done that,” Boudreau said. “I was really happy for the guys that they were able to do that and get the third one right off the bat. We talked about they were going to push really hard [in the third] right off the bat and if we could meet their push for the first five minutes or so and then get into the game, the routine of the game, we’d be fine. But for us scoring that first goal right off the bat, I thought it was a real dagger for them.”
-Before Staal’s goal, the Wild was tested shorthanded but the team responded – killing off back-to-back penalties, including an abbreviated 5-on-3 advantage for Los Angeles.
“The PKs are huge,” Stalock said. “We’re taking a lot of pride in that. We always have but especially now, we know how every little play is so meaningful for us. To get out of where we are, it starts with our special teams and I think to kill off a 5-on-3 -- whether it was only 15 or 20 seconds – they’re going to create a chance if they get possession. So we eliminated that and then killed the rest.”