The Wild Beat
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No extra time.

No problem.

After requiring overtime or a shootout to eke out two points in each of its previous three games, the Wild finally stymied a team in 60 minutes – posting a clean 2-0 win over the Maple Leafs Thursday at Xcel Energy.

“We didn’t need another overtime game,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “It was good to get that one over in regulation.”

And with a blueprint like the one the Wild used to combat the Maple Leafs, it made sense why more hockey wasn’t necessary.

The Wild was tight defensively, mimicking the air-tight performance by goalie Alex Stalock between the pipes. Toronto had just five shots on goal through the first period, and three of those came on the power play. Its production was just slightly better in the second, with Stalock turning aside all seven shots he faced in the frame.

Toronto was better in the third, outshooting the Wild 8-0 at one point. But the Wild persevered thanks to timely saves from Stalock but also key positioning in front of him.

Throughout the game, the defensemen and forwards were able to get in shooting lanes to not only block shots but also limit the quality of the Maple Leafs’ attempts.

Overall, the Wild blocked 21 shots while another 21 of Toronto’s shots missed the net.

“We had good sticks,” Suter said. “We were moving our feet. It was a totally different Wild team as opposed to the last game.”

Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild's win over the Maple Leafs.

  • Not only was the 28-save shutout a statement win for Stalock, who’s taking over the crease while No.1 Devan Dubnyk deals with a minor knee injury, a source said, but what made it more meaningful was that the victory came against the Maple Leafs – who kept Stalock in the minors after acquiring him in a trade in 2016.

“They knew that he had gone to the Leafs and didn’t get a chance,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I don’t think we tried to mention it, but they all knew about it.”

  • Winger Tyler Ennis was the latest success story to emerge from the rotation Boudreau has employed among his forward group, as Ennis scored – his second goal in his last four games – in his return to the lineup after being scratched Tuesday.

He joins Stewart and center Matt Cullen as players who recently took a seat and then chipped in during an ensuing game, with Cullen capitalizing in regulation against the Flames and Stewart adding a shootout goal.

Winger Marcus Foligno was the odd-man out Thursday, so keep an eye on him.

“That’s one of the things about this team, it’s got really good character and they really care,” Boudreau said. “So when they sit down, I have a little talk with them. It’s usually a positive situation, but the character comes through and they play a lot better.”

  • Boudreau mixed up the forward lines against the Maple Leafs.

He had wingers Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund with center Mikko Koivu, promoted winger Zack Mitchell to the top-six alongside winger Jason Zucker and center Eric Staal, assigned winger Charlie Coyle next to center Matt Cullen and winger Joel Eriksson Ek and filled out a fourth line of Ennis, Daniel Winnik and Chris Stewart.

Boudreau wanted to complement Cullen, who Boudreau said has played better lately, with an offensive-minded player like Coyle and a checker in Eriksson Ek. And he thought adding a defensive presence like Mitchell to the Staal line would work.

It’ll be interesting to see if Boudreau sticks with these combinations. The key insurance goal from Granlund was set up by Staal and Niederreiter when the trio was reuninted in the third.

Still, the setup of the fourth line was impactful in the game.

“They had the chances,” Boudreau said. “Sometimes when you're playing a team like Toronto that's got three really good balanced lines in their top-nine, they're offsetting our top-nine. Our fourth line played better than their fourth line, and that's what it comes down to.”