BUFFALO, N.Y. – One reason why Bruce Boudreau believes his teams have perennially cut losing streaks off instantaneously is because of “short-term goals.”
“Win the week” is his every-week mantra. So after a crummy 0-1-1 start to this East Coast trek for the Wild, “Win the week” is what he unremittingly told players.
Thursday night, Devan Dubnyk and the Wild ended the trip in perfect fashion.
After shutting out the Boston Bruins two nights earlier, Dubnyk and the Wild shut out the Buffalo Sabres 4-0 at KeyBank Center.
“Everyone stepped up. Everyone played well. It was a good team effort tonight,” said defenseman Ryan Suter, who scored a goal and had an assist and took the brunt of Marco Scandella’s minutes after he suffered a lower-body injury.
In the arena where he made his Wild debut on Jan. 15, 2015, and two nights after stopping all 27 shots he faced in Boston, Dubnyk made 19 of his 38 saves in the second period for his 21st career shutout. It was the second time in his career he posted consecutive shutouts.
The victory was his 63rd with the Wild, overtaking Dwayne Roloson for third in franchise history. The shutout was his 12th, tying him with Manny Fernandez for third in team history.
“It’s a nice feeling to finish the road trip that way and keep the good feeling in this rink,” Dubnyk said as teammate Chris Stewart chanted, “Doooooo,” on his way to the shower. “Unfortunately we only play here once a year. This is a special place for me.
“It all began here with these guys.”
Despite playing without injured Jared Spurgeon and Erik Haula, the Wild finished the road trip 2-1-1 and takes a Central Division-leading 5-2-1 record into its upcoming two-game homestand vs. Dallas and Buffalo.
Rookie Joel Eriksson Ek, who debuted in the first game of the trip with a goal, scored his first game-winning goal. Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu also scored for the Wild, which is 8-2 all-time in Buffalo.
The one piece of bad news is Scandella was injured midway through the first. During a pileup in front of the Wild net, Scandella’s right knee got caught under him awkwardly as he tangled with Nicolas Deslauriers.
Scandella, in pain, had to hop to the bench. Boudreau, after the game, didn’t know yet how long he’ll be out. Defenseman Matt Dumba, who had an outstanding road trip, did an impressive job playing both the left and right sides in Scandella’s absence.
“Us D-men, everyone just stepped up,” Dumba said. “I’ve known I could play like this. Just getting these minutes, it’s awesome.”
The Wild ranks second in the NHL with 28 goals. Scandella, Nate Prosser and Christian Folin each had an assist, meaning all 20 Wild skaters have a point. A league-best 16 players have a goal.
“That’s how we have to win,” Suter said of the balanced scoring. “We don’t have the superstars. We need everybody on the team participating.”
In Boston, Eriksson Ek, 19, became the first Wild teenager in history and fourth Wild rookie to have three assists in a game. In Buffalo, he opened the scoring with a beautiful move, then a goal.
Flying down the right-wing boards, Eriksson Ek deked flat-footed Jake McCabe, then sped into the right circle. From above the faceoff dot, Eriksson Ek snapped a laser beam over Anders Nilsson’s right shoulder.
“I was trying to shoot far side and see what happens,” said Eriksson Ek, whose parents are flying from Sweden to watch his first home game Saturday.
In four games on the trip, Eriksson Ek had five points.
“He’s getting better every night,” Boudreau said. “One of these days I’m going to put him on the power play. He’s done everything and more that we’ve asked of him so far.”
Ten minutes later, Zucker, who had struck out on five or six breakaways this season, buried one for a 2-0 lead.
In the second period, it was all Dubnyk.
“He’s carrying us right now. You’ve got to ride that wave,” Dumba said.