To be honest, Nino Niederreiter might actually have been doing Jason Zucker a favor.
While Niederreiter said he apologized to his linemate for scoring 12 seconds into the game Tuesday and so quickly dashed any prospect Zucker had of matching the NHL record for consecutive goals, Zucker apparently didn’t want to hear it. He wasn’t even mad. In fact, the demure winger was relieved to finally be out of the limelight.
“Happy,” Zucker said. “Yeah, I’m glad that’s over.”
And as it turned out, the Wild managed to set other records in place of Zucker’s spoiled one in a 3-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at Xcel Energy Center in front of an announced crowd of 18,768.
Niederreiter’s bomb past Philadelphia goaltender Brian Elliot tied for the fastest Wild goal at home, set by Justin Fontaine in 2013. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk broke his own Wild record from 2016 for longest shutout streak, which stands at 195 minutes, 5 seconds. His third consecutive shutout was also a franchise-best mark, and the Wild is on its longest winning streak of the season because of it.
“He is seeing the puck right now, and his reflexes are on fire,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of Dubnyk. “We will take it as long as he can give it.”
Dubnyk stopped 30 shots Tuesday and the past 106 total that have come his way. He leads the league in games played and shutouts; is second in wins and goals-against average; and is tied for second in save percentage among goalies with at least 10 games played.
And he even helped out on the offensive side, too, assisting on Zucker’s empty-net goal to finish the game. Though Zucker’s six-consecutive goal run did come to an end, his eventual score Tuesday gave him a five-game point streak and career-best four-game goal streak. Linemate Eric Staal also scored an empty-netter just before Zucker in the game’s final minute.
Zucker said he’s not surprised to see other players on the score sheet for the first time in three games. He said he knew the Wild has “too many good players for that to last even as long as it did.”
“All of our forwards, I mean, everybody is chipping in really, really well offensively,” Zucker said. “[Tyler] Ennis had nine scoring chances, it seemed like, tonight. So those are going to go in for him. The kid is very, very talented. Same with [Mikael Granlund] and Mikko [Koivu]. I mean, they’re going to start scoring goals. It’s just a matter of time.
“But for me, Staalsy and Nino, it’s basically just making sure we keep playing our game. And it is nice to see them on the score sheet and get rewarded for their work the past few games as well.”
Ennis, who came to the Wild from the Buffalo Sabres this summer, said this game signaled how the Wild’s season finally seems to be on track.
“When I was opposing Minnesota the past seven years, you always came into the game knowing it was going to be hard generating chances. And when there were chances, it was going to be hard to score on Dubnyk. Now that I’m a part of the team, it’s fun being on this side of it,” Ennis said.
“It’s coming together. I think this is the Minnesota Wild that everyone in the NHL is used to. It’s a defensive team that shuts opposing teams down but also generates offense.”