Going back to last season and earlier this season, the Minnesota Wild lost five straight post-regulation games.
Four of those were in overtime.
All of the sudden, the Wild thrive when games go beyond regulation.
The latest example was a 2-1 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames (16-12-3) on Tuesday in St. Paul. It pushed the Wild (16-11-3) winning streak to three games — two in overtime — and five wins in their last six games with just one of those ending in regulation.
Mikael Granlund scored his first career shootout goal in five tries in the fifth round for the winner. Chris Stewart also scored in the shootout; he’s 11 for 26 in his shootout career.
The true hero of the shootout, and perhaps the game, was backup goaltender Alex Stalock who entered the game at the start of the second period for an injured Devan Dubnyk.
Stalock allowed a goal to Johnny Gaudreau in the first round of the shootout — which the Wild argued shouldn’t have counted because Gaudreau was skating backward with the puck — but stopped the next four shooters, including Michael Ferland to clinch the victory.
“I think it’s just going in and giving the team a chance… to get two points shows a lot about the group in here,” Stalock said.
Stalock is now 4-3-1 this season; he also got the shootout victory in a 3-2 win on Nov. 24 against Colorado.
“It’s great to see Alex [Stalock] come in as the reliever and get the win,” Stewart said.
Dubnyk made 10 saves in the first period before leaving with a lower-body injury in his 100th home game with the Wild. There was no update on Dubnyk’s status after the game.
“I don’t know right now,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “I haven’t talked to the doctors. I’ll know tomorrow.”
Boudreau was informed Dubnyk was struggling as early as the first break in the first period, the coach said after the game. Boudreau said Dubnyk could come out at any time, but he stayed in to finish off the first 20 minutes and didn’t allow a goal. Since he played well, Boudreau said that would indicate the injury isn’t serious, even if he doesn’t know for sure.
It was a good thing Dubnyk played so well when he was in the game, because the Wild were flat to start and didn’t get all that much better the rest of the game. There’s just something about coming off a west coast trip that first game back at home.
“I mean, we weren’t in the first period,” Boudreau said. “I think we struggled the whole game, quite frankly. Nobody seemed to have any energy whatsoever.”
Still, he was happy with the play of his backup goaltender, who played the other night against San Jose.
“It’s amazing how many times a backup goalie comes in in a game and shuts the other team down,” Boudreau said.
Stalock came into the game and only allowed one goal throughout the second, third and overtime periods. The Flames tied it up 1-1 with 1:03 left in the second period on a Ferland shot from the point that deflected off Jonas Brodin on the way into the net on Stalock’s glove side.
Earlier in the shift, Wild skater Ryan Murphy was headed into the corner to confront the opponent with the puck, but Mark Giordano blatantly interfered with a solid hit on Murphy. No call, and the Flames tied the game seconds later.
The Wild went up 1-0 on Matt Cullen’s 250th career goal and second of the season with 2:36 left in the first period, however, so there’s that.
“It’s always nice to contribute,” Cullen said.
On the play, Ryan Suter took a shot from the point, Joel Eriksson Ek couldn’t bury it near the crease, so Cullen came through with the rebound on his backhand.
The third period was a scoreless one — a good sign for the Wild, not allowing a goal against in the third period — before what turned out to be a pretty exciting overtime period, or as exciting as it can get without any goals being scored.
The teams traded chances. Suter took a feed from Eric Staal on the rush but shot the puck over the top of the goal. The Flames had so many good chances and looks at the net that it was a wonder the puck didn’t go in. They even got another scoring chance right at the buzzer signaling a shootout.
- Dubnyk (12-8-2) with 10 saves in the first period; Stalock (4-3-1) with 16 saves in the second, third and overtime periods. Mike Smith (13-9-3) with 21 saves.
- Cullen’s goal was his first in 18 games, since Nov. 2 when he scored on his 41st birthday.
- The Wild, though still taking penalties with three minors in this game, have a 40 for 43 penalty kill at home. The Wild went 0 for 2 on the power play. They have 52 penalties in the last 11 games compared with just 34 for their opponents.
- Mikko Koivu has gone 21 games without a goal and eight straight games without a point. He hit iron in the third round of the shootout.
- Charlie Coyle and Staal were the other shootout entries for the Wild, both failing to score.
The Wild host an Eastern Conference opponent on Thursday: the Toronto Maple Leafs.