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Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 1, Flyers 0

Zucker scores only goal, Dubnyk makes 32 saves for second consecutive shutout

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Wild.com's Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 1-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Saturday night:

 

1. Jason Zucker kept his remarkable run alive on Saturday, scoring the only goal of the game just over a minute into the final period.

The storyline of the game against the Flyers was very similar to the one in Montreal on Thursday; a 0-0 game into the third period, goaltender Devan Dubnyk looking calm and cool for Minnesota in goal, and it's Zucker who begins the offensive charge.

The goal was Zucker's sixth straight scored for the Wild over a span of three games; he tallied both of Minnesota's goals in Toronto on Wednesday and all three in his first career hat trick 24 hours later in Montreal. 

He also accounted for the only assist on Eric Staal's goal in Boston on Monday, meaning Zucker has had a hand in Minnesota's past seven goals overall.

No player in franchise history had ever scored five consecutive goals, much less six, a record Zucker will attempt to extend when the Flyers and Wild meet up again on Tuesday in St. Paul.

Asked afterward if the one-time roller hockey player had ever had a stretch of hot play like this, he simply shook his head.

"No chance," Zucker responded quickly. "[I'm] just trying to play my game. We're trying to get wins right now. We need them really bad. All of us, every guy, you can look around and just tell they're all trying to do a little bit more. I'm just trying to do the same, just make sure we get these wins and get us out of this and start playing the game we want to play."

This one won't go down as one of the prettiest goals Zucker will rack up, but they all look the same in the box score. A shot from the point by Matt Dumba blasted off the end wall and caromed to Zucker near the left hashes. He got a small piece of the puck, which rolled into the skates of Flyers goaltender Brian Elliott and into the net at the 1:08 mark of the third. 

Video: MIN@PHI: Zucker pots opening tally early in the 3rd

"I have no idea. It was an empty net, and it had a lot of spin off the boards," Zucker said. "I think when it hit my stick, it just kind of shot off and honestly couldn't tell you what it hit. That's just a lucky bounce."

After going through a stretch where it seemed like every lucky bounce in the world went against the Wild, Minnesota will surely take the puck luck. Coach Bruce Boudreau said he knows he can't count on Zucker to be the team's only goal scorer if it wants to keep winning games, but as the adage goes, beggars can't be choosers, right? 

"I'd like somebody else to score a goal, if it's OK. As long as he keeps getting them and we keep winning, we're going good," Boudreau said. "It's been a while since I've seen somebody get this many goals in a row for a team, but as long as he's feeling it and we get a little bit of success, that's good."

As Zucker continues his scorching stretch, the Las Vegas native is approaching some lofty historical precedent:

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Jason Zucker of the @mnwild has scored six consecutive team goals, one shy of the NHL record set by Cy Denneny from Feb. 28 ��� March 7, 1921 (w/ SEN) and matched by Brian Noonan from Dec. 27-29, 1991 (w/ CHI). #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/gzufx4mbtI

2. It was one of those nights again for Dubnyk, who was outstanding once again in making 32 saves for his second consecutive shutout.

It seems like you can tell what kind of game he's going to have within a few minutes of the opening puck drop. When he's on, like he was in Montreal and certainly like he was on Saturday, the puck sticks to him like Velcro.

Video: MIN@PHI: Dubnyk snares Couturier's one-timer 

Dubnyk was especially huge in a sluggish first period for Minnesota, which got outshot in the opening frame by a 12-5 margin and generally seemed just a step behind.

"Once the first period was over, we thought that if we could play better, then we'd have a shot tonight," Boudreau said. "You could see [Dubnyk] was still following the puck really well. So I had all the confidence in the world that it was going to be a hard time for somebody to get in tonight on him."

Video: MIN@PHI: Dubnyk makes back-to-back saves

His teammates paid him back later in the game with a series of gigantic blocks, including one by Jared Spurgeon with under 30 seconds to play and the final one by Eric Staal with less than three seconds left in regulation to preserve the victory and a 2-2 record on the four-game road trip.

Video: MIN@PHI: Staal denies Gostisbehere at the last second

Ryan Suter also played a hand in sweeping a puck away midway through the third with the Wild clinging to a one-goal advantage. Minnesota finished with 18 blocked shots overall.

"We had very good sticks tonight. Obviously that's a very skilled and creative group. We got our sticks on some of the dangerous cross-ice passes and we had some huge blocks in the third period," Dubnyk said. "Those are big plays. You just don't know what happens if pucks get through and we've done that two games in a row now." 

Dubnyk's shutout streak is now up to 135 minutes, 5 seconds as the Wild won 1-0 on the road for the first time since doing so in Calgary on Jan. 29, 2015.

Video: MIN@PHI: Dubnyk dives to corral Provorov's slap shot

"I's funny. You don't know when it's going to come. I've felt pretty good in the net this year. It's always nice when you get into a bit of a flow and a rhythm," Dubnyk replied, when asked if Saturday was as well as he's felt all season.

"Sometimes it takes a little bit for everybody to get used to each other and reading off each other. It's nice to get in there and start to feel like I can really know exactly what's going on out there and exactly what these guys are doing and that's usually the case with this group which is why we're usually pretty good defensively."

"He controlled everything, his movements were really good," Boudreau said. "I'd like to bottle up his confidence right now."

3. It's amazing how big of a difference a few days makes in the marathon that is an NHL season.

Following a 5-3 loss in Boston to start the road trip on Monday, there was a sense in the locker room that it was time to put up or shut up. Inconsistency had plagued the team during a two-week-long, six-game homestand as the Wild seemed to be spinning its wheels.

After a tough practice in Toronto in which Boudreau said "this isn't a country club," the team responded with a solid game against the Maple Leafs but left without the reward of two points.

It followed with a better effort in Montreal in a 3-0 shutout win and followed again on Saturday with the win in Philly to salvage what could have been a catastrophic road trip.

"I think that was probably the worst we've played in a long long time [in Boston]. I think we all kind of had a good look in the mirror and wanted to come out and have better games," Zucker said. "We did that in Toronto, didn't get the result we wanted but we just stuck with it. It was good to get that win in Montreal and carry that into tonight. 

"We got to make sure we go home and do the same thing on Tuesday with these guys again."

Video: Locker room postgame at Philadelphia

Indeed, that will be another important test. Philadelphia will come to Xcel Energy Center cranky following a loss in front of its home crowd, and has had a habit of following losses with wins this season (a trend they've followed all but twice through the first few weeks). 

"After losing in Boston, that was a bad game and we knew we had to change things up," Nino Niederreiter said. We had to make sure we [got] our work boots on and just grind teams down."

Boudreau credited the team's leadership for preaching that mentality, starting with that decisive practice north of the border.

"It was a scheduled optional, and I just thought with that and being Friday off and [Sunday] off that it was too much," Boudreau said. "Add to the fact that we didn't play very good [in Boston], it was easy to cancel that and make it a good practice. And you know what, I talked to the leaders on the team and they thought it was needed too. If you notice in that practice, the three hardest workers were Suter, Staal and Mikko [Koivu]."

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame at Philadelphia

"It was exactly what we needed. Every guy came off the ice that day and said that was an absolute battle but it was exactly what we needed," Zucker said. "It was great. We didn't get bagged with no pucks; it was just we needed a battle practice, and that was huge for us. 

"I remember talking to [Tyler] Ennis when we got off the ice in the room and it was like, 'Yeah, that was good. We really needed that.' I thought that was good for us, and I think honestly it turned our battle level around a bit and got us moving in the right direction."


Loose Pucks

• Matt Dumba and Nino Niederreiter earned assists on Zucker's goal.  

• Minnesota outshot Philadelphia 13-9, the only period in which it owned a shots-on-goal advantage.

• Elliott finished with 26 saves.

• Attendance: 19,309


He Said It

"Obviously at the end of the day we need goals to win hockey games and I'm glad we got at least one who scores goals." -- Wild forward Nino Niederreiter


They Said It

"We didn't finish on one. It was one of those nights where it wasn't going to be easy to score. We couldn't find a rebound or a puck around the net, to finish one. They got one, it's off our stick, off the back wall and they finished one of those. That's kind of the way the night was, both directions." -- Flyers coach Dave Hakstol


Dan's Three Stars

* Devan Dubnyk 

** Jason Zucker

*** Brian Elliott

Video: Dubnyk shuts out Flyers in tight 1-0 win

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