By his own count, Devan Dubnyk has lost shutouts in the waning minutes four times this season, but “none quite like that.”
Tomas Plekanec’s goal with 8.5 seconds left Thursday night not only wrecked what would have been Dubnyk’s league-leading sixth shutout, it destroyed what would have been the most lopsided victory at home in Wild history.
Instead, the Wild had to settle for tying the mark during a 7-1 dismantling of decorated star goalie Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens.
“Anytime there’s a decimal point on the clock, it stings a little more,” said Dubnyk, 15-1-2 in his past 18 starts, of the lost shutout. “But … not going to lose any sleep over [Thursday].”
That’s because the Wild cruised behind three-goal second and third periods. Five games after setting a franchise record with 15 point-getters against the Islanders, 14 players had a point for the Wild on Thursday, led by three-point nights from Eric Staal (his second in four games) and Matt Dumba (career-high three assists).
The Wild, the highest-scoring and best defensive team in the Western Conference, scored at least four goals for the 16th time in 40 games, something that occurred 20 times in 82 games last season.
Six players scored goals. Nino Niederreiter had two, Staal scored his sixth game-winning goal (tied for second in the NHL) and Christian Folin, Jordan Schroeder, Jason Zucker and Ryan Suter had the others.
Price, the former Hart Trophy winner who has led Canada to gold in the Olympics and World Cup, gave up seven goals for the fifth time in his career as Dubnyk outplayed him for the second time in three weeks. The Wild won 4-2 in Montreal on Dec. 22.
“You don’t score seven on him very often,” said Staal, the Wild’s leading scorer (38 points in 40 games) who has picked up 20 points in the past 14 games.
The Wild’s goals came on only 24 shots.
“I was happy I was on my end. I felt like every shot we got was a scoring chance down there,” said Dubnyk, who leads the NHL with a 1.77 goals-against average and .940 save percentage and ranks second with 22 victories.
The Wild is 3-0-1 since having its 12-game winning streak busted Dec. 31 by Columbus. While improving to 14-4 at home (61-31 goal edge), the Wild picked up points for the 21st time in 23 games (17-2-4, 86-54 goal edge) and moved within two points of Central Division-leading Chicago with four games in hand.
The Wild, 13-4-1 against the East after being 13-16-3 against the conference last season, leads the West with a .713 points percentage heading into weekend road games at Dallas and Chicago. The Wild carries a 10-game road point streak into Saturday’s game against the Stars.
Still, coach Bruce Boudreau wasn’t overjoyed by the victory. The Canadiens are decimated by injury and played the night before in Winnipeg.
“We took advantage of a very tired team,” Boudreau said. “We have to play a lot better this weekend if we want to be successful. We were giving pucks away. We didn’t seem to have our legs. We certainly had puck luck. Sometimes that’s good. We can’t rely on that forever.”
Staal and Folin executed a beautiful give-and-go 2:34 into the game, then the Canadiens were the better team for the rest of the first period. But the Wild, a quick-strike team all season with multiple goals within a minute nine times, scored 39 seconds apart on tallies by Staal and Schroeder to take the wind out of Montreal’s sail. Staal was sprung by Dumba and Coyle, then Schroeder tipped in Jared Spurgeon’s shot after being cross-checked to the ice.
“When you’re tired, that really takes a lot out of you,” Boudreau said.
It did. The Wild dominated from there.
“They capitalized on just about every opportunity they had,” Price said.
“We were just awful,” Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said.