Stalock, Wild shut out Maple Leafs
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — If Alex Stalock’s performance against one of the NHL’s offensive powerhouses is any indication of how he will replace the indefinitely sidelined Devan Dubnyk, the Minnesota Wild will be just fine in the interim.
Goals by Tyler Ennis and Mikael Granlund supplemented a 28-save performance by Stalock as the Wild defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Stalock, playing in place of the injured Dubnyk, picked up his fifth win of the season (5-3-1) and fifth career shutout in his first appearance against his former team.
Toronto’s Frederik Andersen made 24 saves in seeing his record fall to 17-10-1.
Stalock spent four months in the Maple Leafs organization after he was acquired via trade from San Jose in February 2016. He was immediately waived and spent most of the remainder of the season on the bench of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.
Minnesota helped Stalock’s cause by blocking 21 Toronto shots and killing off four power plays in winning its fifth straight game at home and fourth in a row overall.
“I think we played a great 60-minute game as a group,” Stalock said. “The penalty kill was unbelievable. We kept them to the outside, didn’t give them any really grade-A looks and I got to see a lot of pucks, which for me, if I can see the puck, it helps a ton.”
The Maple Leafs entered the game ranked fifth in the NHL in goals per game (3.31) and had yet to be shut out this season, but Toronto could not solve Stalock, who made 16 of his saves in the third period.
“They’re a strong defensive team,” Toronto forward James van Riemsdyk said. “It kind of reminded me of a lot of similar stuff they did to us last time and they do a good job of making it tough to get inside and penetrate towards their net. I felt we had a couple of decent looks, especially in the third period, but the goalie made some good saves too.”
Trailing 1-0 after two periods with only 12 shots on goal, Toronto (20-12-1) had the Wild (17-11-3) on their heels early in the third, firing the period’s first eight shots.
But Stalock stood tall, denying Tyler Bozak’s blast from the center hash marks at 2:22 and a redirect by Van Riemsdyk at 6:12 to preserve the lead until Minnesota’s offense could strike once more.
From behind Andersen, Eric Staal slipped a backhand pass between Patrick Marleau and the left post to Granlund, who buried his seventh goal at 8:06 of the final period.
Ennis, one game removed from being a healthy scratch against Calgary on Tuesday, scored his sixth goal of the season and second in his last four games late in the first period.
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter picked off Connor Brown’s clearing attempt along the left wing boards and found Ennis alone behind the Toronto net. Ennis stepped out front and beat Andersen with a shot just inside the right post at 18:06.
“I guess everyone plays well with a chip on their shoulder, a little bit of fire,” Ennis said. “I think it was more our line got it in, played smart, played hard and played the way we were supposed to and we were successful.”
The goal gave Ennis, formerly of the Buffalo Sabres, 22 points in 30 career games against Toronto, his most against any NHL franchise.
Minnesota nearly doubled its lead on a second-period power play when Mike Reilly’s shot caromed off the end wall to Charlie Coyle at the right post. But Coyle’s shot clipped the post and Ryan Murphy’s follow-up hit Andersen’s dropped stick before it was covered.
Andersen also made a pair of point-blank saves on Staal early in the period and robbed Matt Cullen on a deflection later in the middle frame.
“I thought (Stalock) had a good game, and I thought they protected him well,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “I don’t think either team gave up many opportunities so it was a night for the goaltenders that way.”
NOTES: Minnesota recalled goaltender Steve Michalek from Iowa of the American Hockey League on Thursday morning. ... Toronto C Auston Matthews sat out his third straight game with a lower-body injury. The Maple Leafs are 5-2-0 this season without their star forward. ... Wild LW Zach Parise and D Jared Spurgeon each skated with the team Thursday but remained out of the Minnesota lineup. ... Toronto D Roman Polak played his 200th game in a Maple Leafs uniform Thursday night. In two stints with the Leafs, Polak has collected 11 goals and 36 points.. ... Wild D Gustav Olofsson and LW Marcus Foligno were healthy scratches for Minnesota, which wraps up its three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon against Edmonton. ... D Connor Carrick and RW Kasperi Kapanen sat out for Toronto, which concludes its three-game trip on Friday night in Detroit.