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Wild score four in first period, rout Lightning

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- So who needs a power play? Apparently not the Minnesota Wild.

Minnesota scored six even-strength goals and another one while playing shorthanded in rolling to a 7-2 victory against the road-weary Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild (4-2-0) have scored 19 goals in six games. None of those goals have come on the power play, which didn't score on its only opportunity Saturday and is 0-for-20 this season.

Instead, Minnesota got four even-strength goals in the first 17:15 and sent goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to the bench after Jason Zucker scored to make it 4-1. The Wild scored twice in the second period and once in the third.

Tampa Bay got goals by defenseman Anton Stralman and forward Nikita Kucherov. But with the exception of a three-minute stretch at the end of second period, Tampa Bay looked like a team playing the finale of a five-game road trip and the second half of back-to-back games.

Minnesota didn't dominate Tampa Bay on the shot chart; the Wild had 22 shots on goal to 19 for the Lightning. But several of the Wild's chances, including nearly every goal, came from within a dozen feet of the net.

"We didn't get that many shots, but I felt like pretty much all of the ones we did get were quality scoring chances," forward Zach Parise said.

Parise and Jason Pominville set up defenseman Marco Scandella for the opening goal at 7:37 of the first period. Less than a minute later, the second line got into the act when Mikko Koivu scored from a bad angle after a pass from Thomas Vanek.

Stralman pulled the Lightning within 2-1 at 11:04, but Erik Haula scored his first of the season 1:37 later and Zucker's spin-o-rama from the left half-wall got through traffic and under the crossbar, sending Nabokov to the bench after surrendering four goals on eight shots.

"To be honest, I didn't even look at the net," Zucker said. "I pulled up, I knew [linemates Matt Cooke and Ryan Carter] were driving to the net. I knew [Nabokov] was fighting the puck a little bit so my mindset was just to get the puck on net and hopefully they could get a rebound. I'm not sure what happened, but it found its way in."

The rough outing for Nabokov was somewhat surprising considering his first two starts for the Lightning. Nabokov, who signed a one-year contract on July 1 to serve as the backup to Ben Bishop, had allowed a total of three goals in his first two starts, stopping nearly 95 percent of the shots he faced.

"I just wasn't good," Nabokov said. "Two easy goals, that's about it. Just wasn't good enough. That's the bottom line."

Parise and Jared Spurgeon scored in the second period for Minnesota, and Zucker added a shorthanded goal in the third period, giving him the team lead with four goals.

Bishop, who stopped 40 shots in a 4-2 road win against the Winnipeg Jets 24 hours earlier, allowed three goals on 11 shots after relieving Nabokov.

"I'll tell you right now, this was our ninth game. For eight games, our goaltending has been outstanding," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, whose team went 3-2-0 on a trip that took Tampa Bay through Western Canada before the stop in Minnesota. "Say whatever you like, that duo has been really good for us. When we've broken down, which we have, they've bailed us out."

Vanek had two assists for his first multiple-point game with the Wild. He has four points in six games, all assists. His saucer pass on Spurgeon's goal in the second was a thing of beauty; all Spurgeon had to do was leave his stick on the ice, capping a 2-on-1 break.

All four lines scored at least one goal and 13 of the 18 skaters were plus players.

"I think good teams have three lines that can score," Vanek said. "Right now we have four that can really generate."

Scandella assisted on Zucker's second goal, giving him a Gordie Howe Hat Trick; he fought Tampa Bay forward Brian Boyle in the first period.

Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper stopped 17 shots for his fourth victory in five decisions this season. His shutout streak at home was snapped at 131:04 when Stralman scored midway through the first period. It was the first goal allowed by the Wild at home this season.

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