What do Alex Ovechkin, Patrik Laine, Evgeni Malkin, Connor McDavid, William Karlsson and Eric Staal all have in common?
Each has scored at least 40 goals this season, exclusive company Staal joined Tuesday by reaching the milestone in the 2-1 shootout loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
“When you’re at 39, you always want to get it out of the way, especially when you got people texting you, talking to you, my kids, people are watching,” Staal said. “So it was nice to get it in that moment because it was an important goal. You take any goals the way you can get them, but to be able to tie it up late in a battle-type game feels good. I wish I would have 41 there in overtime with a couple looks I had.”
Not only did Staal solidify his place among this season’s top goal scorers, but he also made history. The 33-year-old became just the second player in Wild history to score 40, a benchmark he accomplished for the third time in his career.
And Staal is also just the second player in NHL history to secure 40-goal seasons at least nine seasons apart with none in between; he also had 40 in 2008-09. The other to achieve the feat? The legendary Gordie Howe, who had 44 in 1956-57 and 1968-69.
“It’s a lot of years apart but anytime you’re mentioned with one of the greatest to ever play the game, that’s pretty special,” Staal said. “That’s cool, no question. I wish I had a few more in the middle of those nine years, but that’s life. I’m glad to be back in that situation now. I’ve enjoyed every minute coming to this organization and this group of guys. It’s special. People care, and people want to win and I want to do more and looking forward to finish strong here hopefully down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s shootout loss to the Predators.
-The Wild was able to pull away from the Predators during their previous matchup in Minnesota Saturday en route to a 4-1 win but if these two teams suit up against each other in the playoffs, the battle might be more indicative of the struggle that unraveled in the game Tuesday.
“We play these guys at this time of year it’s probably going to look a lot like that unless there’s some bounces that create breaks,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “We’re both good teams, and we’re both playing for a lot right now. It’s going to be tough to find room out there.”
-Winger Jordan Greenway skated 10 minutes, 1 second in his NHL debut, ice time that included a look on the power play.
“You see that he's going to be a good player,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Positionally he was fine. He's got a tremendous reach. This is a tough game for No. 1 for a young man's career. I thought he handled it well.”
-This result extended the Wild’s point streak to six games, but it continued its trouble with extra-time scenarios. The team has dropped five of the last six games that have progressed to overtime or a shootout.