CALGARY, ALBERTA – The best player on the ice during the Wild’s 3-2 victory over the Canucks on Tuesday, in coach Bruce Boudreau’s eyes, didn’t score a goal, register a shot on net or contribute on special teams.
But what rookie Jordan Greenway did to merit such praise was be a physical force in the offensive zone, sustaining pressure that helped the Wild find a rhythm that stopped a three-game losing streak.
“That’s two games in a row I thought he’s been a man among boys,” Boudreau said. “If he can continue to do that, he’s going to get a lot more points. He could have had three or four himself [Tuesday], and that’s the reason why he was on the ice at the end of the game because of the way he worked — his body of work during the course of the game.”
Greenway and his linemates, center Joel Eriksson Ek and winger Nino Niederreiter, did a terrific job cycling along the boards, shrugging off Vancouver defenders who were forced into chase mode.
That possession, however, didn’t result in production, and that’s the next objective for the unit: peeling off after only one or two handoffs to drive to the net, a challenge it had the chance to tackle Thursday when the line remained intact to face the Flames.
“It’s not easy,” said Greenway, explaining the puck carrier must clearly have the defender beat for his attempt at cutting inside to be successful. “We just gotta find ways to bring pucks to the net, just get more shots. I think we’ve created a good amount of chances down there, but I think bringing the puck to the net is something we gotta do a little more.”
After handling the second half of the previous four back-to-backs, backup Alex Stalock switched from the closer role to the starter position Thursday — his 100th career game.
“Pretty cool actually,” Stalock said of the plateau. “For a goalie, I guess a big milestone for this position. Lucky to be playing after some of the stuff I’ve been through in my past. Pretty cool in that way.”
The South St. Paul native is the seventh Minnesota-born goalie to record 100 games in the NHL, and the first since Damian Rhodes — this after a severe leg injury in 2011 threatened to end his career.
During a game in the minors, a player stepped on the back of Stalock’s left leg and severed his nerve.
“There was one point where I didn’t know if there was going to be another game,” he said. “To get to 100 is really cool.”
The decision to start Stalock on Thursday paved the way for No. 1 Devan Dubnyk to finish off the two-game set Friday in Edmonton against the Oilers.
The Wild’s power play took off earlier this week — going 3-for-3 in the victory over the Canucks after blanking on 11 of 12 chances the previous four games — and that improvement started with winning the initial faceoff.
“We didn’t really even get set up,” winger Zach Parise said of the rough patch. “You could tell it started to bother some guys. Not that it was the centers’ fault because I know Mikko [Koivu] won some draws right to me and I lost it. So we never really got set up. It starts to frustrate you, but the last game we won the draws, we set up and we shot.
“It’s something that simple but all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘We’re 3-for-3. We feel great again.’ ”
That feeling was fleeting, however. The Wild went 0-for-5 with the man advantage in Thursday’s 2-0 loss in Calgary. Parise still hoped the recent power-play surge would help at even strength.
“I’m a big believer that carries over to 5-on-5 play, and your team feeds off it,” he said. “It’s just like a big penalty kill. Your team feeds off it. The same goes for the power play. You get some extra touches on the power play. You just feel better about the game. It’s amazing what it can do.”