Stalock backstops surging Wild to 2-0 win over Maple Leafs
ST. PAUL — Alex Stalock stopped 28 shots to complete his first NHL shutout in three seasons, steering the Minnesota Wild past the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.
Tyler Ennis scored early and Mikael Granlund added a late goal for the Wild, whose first three wins on the streak were all in extra time. They handed the Maple Leafs their first blank slate in more than a year, since a 3-0 loss at Calgary on Nov. 30, 2016.
The Maple Leafs, who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and entered the game with the fifth-highest scoring average in the league, have totaled three goals over their last three games without young star center Auston Matthews because of an upper-body injury.
Stalock stepped up at an opportune time for the Wild, who had to pull starter Devan Dubnyk from the previous game after one period because of an unspecified lower-body injury. Dubnyk will miss at least another week, leaving the net in the hands of the career backup Stalock who played at South St. Paul High School just 5 miles from Xcel Energy Center. All four of his previous NHL shutouts came with San Jose.
Since losing 4-2 to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Nov. 8, the Wild are 12-4-1 in their last 17 games for an NHL-leading 25 points over that span. This was their fifth straight win at home.
After a failed clearing attempt by Maple Leafs right wing Connor Brown in his own zone, Wild defenseman Ryan Suter took possession of the puck to set up Ennis for a sharp-angle shot that eluded goalie Frederik Andersen with 1:54 remaining in the first period.
Ennis was a healthy scratch in the previous game for the first time all season, his first with the Wild. They need Ennis and fourth-line mates Daniel Winnik and Chris Stewart, both Toronto natives, to continue to produce like this.
For insurance, Granlund converted a one-timer from one knee off a behind-the-goal feed from Eric Staal, giving Granlund 15 points (six goals and nine assists) in his last 15 games. This was the Wild’s first third-period goal in six games.
The Wild killed all four Maple Leafs power plays, making them 24 for 25 over their last eight games, when they’re 7-0-1. Their home penalty kill is the best in the league at 44 of 47 successes.
The Maple Leafs were out of rhythm all night. They had only six shots on goal at the midpoint of the game, after going a span of 28-plus minutes with only three tries on target.
NOTES: Andersen made 24 saves.
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