A low-scoring duel was peculiar enough considering just how much the Wild was being outplayed early — a lopsided feel that would typically result in a multi-goal deficit.
But what made the Wild’s 2-1 shootout win over the Flames on Tuesday in front of 18,767 at Xcel Energy Center even more special — and impressive — was that it took two goaltenders to complete the job with backup Alex Stalock replacing No. 1 Devan Dubnyk after the first period. Dubnyk left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return.
“As soon as [Stalock] got the call, we could see it in his eyes,” winger Chris Stewart said. “You knew he was going to be ready.”
Stalock made 16 saves in relief and turned aside another four in the shootout after backstopping the Wild to a 4-3 overtime win over the Sharks on Sunday, while Stewart and winger Mikael Granlund converted for the Wild in the five-round battle to push the Wild’s win streak to three games and extend its dominance on home ice to 6-0-1 over its last seven games.
Coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t have an update on Dubnyk’s status after the game, explaining that he’ll know more Wednesday.
Boudreau found out Dubnyk was struggling during the first timeout in the opening period and Dubnyk also warned Stalock during the period to be ready, but he finished out the frame.
“Which says to me that it’s not that serious,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know, though.”
Dubnyk was busy through the first 20 minutes, turning aside 10 shots to frustrate a Calgary group that was clearly superior at the start.
The Flames pummeled the front of the net with pressure, as pucks and bodies confronted Dubnyk. Winger Matthew Tkachuk came close to scoring off a redirect. Center Mikael Backland put the rebound through the crease. And the Flames dinged the post twice.
Not until 10 minutes, 2 seconds had passed did the Wild even register its first shot on goal — a wrister from captain Mikko Koivu that disappeared in Calgary goalie Mike Smith’s midsection.
At one point, the shot differential was 7-1 in the Flames’ favor.
Quality, however, trumped quantity, as the Wild escaped the first with a one-goal lead.
On just its third shot, center Matt Cullen whipped a backhander through traffic and by Smith — who totaled 21 saves ——at 17:24 to end a 17-game scoreless streak and record the 250th goal of his career.
“[Dubnyk] was good because we weren’t in the first period,” Boudreau said. “I think we struggled the whole game, quite frankly. But it was one of those games you come back off the West Coast and you play right away, and nobody seemed to have any energy whatsoever.”
The Wild eased Stalock into duty in the second, as the team earned two power plays through the first 10 minutes but blanked on both.
“I just kind of had to make the saves that I had to, really,” Stalock said. “There was no outrageous saves or anything.”
Despite spending more time in the Flames’ end in the second, the Wild couldn’t grow its lead and instead ended up tied after winger Micheal Ferland scored with 1:03 left in the period.
That set up a photo finish in the third; Calgary had a look late in the frame on the power play, but it was unable to convert and finished the game 0-for-3.
Still tied after regulation, the Wild headed to its third consecutive extra-time game.
And like the ones before, it prevailed.
“We’re confident going into overtime and even more confident going into the shootout,” Stewart said.