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Stalock comes up big for Wild in win over Ducks

Goaltender makes a number of critical stops at opportune times as Minnesota halts five-game road losing skid

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Wild's ability to win the game Tuesday night at the Honda Center sat perilously in the balance. 

Moments earlier, Ducks defenseman Jacob Larsson had floated a shot from the left-wing wall past a screened Alex Stalock to make it 2-0 in favor of the home team.

Anaheim began the second period rolling, getting goals from Rickard Rakell and Larsson just 25 seconds apart after the Wild had escaped a sloppy -- but scoreless -- first 20 minutes. 

Just seven seconds had elapsed between Larsson's goal and a potential 3-0 lead that appeared certain when Derek Grant centered a pass for a wide open Max Jones in front. Instead, Stalock sprawled to make a miraculous save, one that would end up being the turning point in the game.

Tweet from @hockeywildernes: Huge blocker save.

"I saw [Jones] coming on the back side," Stalock said. "[Grant] was on his backhand, so it wasn't much of a shooting threat. I figured he was going to try and get it across, he did and I got across. Fortunate for me that he shot it into my blocker and didn't get it up higher."

Minnesota would be on the power play shortly thereafter, it would score seven minutes later to make it a one-goal game before the Wild turned it on in the third period, scoring three times in an eventual 4-2 victory.

The win was just the second on the road this season for the Wild, but none of it happens without Stalock's denial of Jones during a crucial moment of the game.

Video: Locker room postgame at Anaheim

"It's huge. Any time you can get a save like that from your goaltender, whether it's keeping it close ... or just those opportune saves at moments like that, they're huge," said Wild forward Eric Staal, who was credited with the game-winning goal in the third period. "He was great tonight."

Stalock certainly wasn't flawless, especially early. He committed an odd delay of game penalty in the first period when he didn't field a bouncing puck cleanly and was forced to pounce on it near the left circle. He was given a delay of game penalty for his trouble.

He also saw one puck squeeze through in the crease before some assistance from Carson Soucy, jamming the puck into his pads while Stalock was prone on his stomach. 
But neither of those mishaps resulted in goals against.

When Anaheim did score, there was nothing Stalock could do. Rakell's goal came on a rebound of his own shot in which the Wild goaltender had robbed him with the left pad just a half second before. 

Larsson's goal had eyes.

After that, absolutely nothing fazed Stalock, including Jones' grade-A chance moments later and two more 10-bell chances by Rakell in the third period after the Wild had rallied to take a one-goal lead.

Video: MIN@ANA: Stalock turns away Rakell to keep Wild ahead

While the late infusion of offense was a welcomed development, it's quite possible the third-period rally came as a direct result of Stalock's play and his ability to keep the game within reach.

"It really does when you know you've got the guy there protecting you," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledged after the game. "He made the big save [on Rakell] when it was 3-2 in the slot ... and when you see that, you know things are turning your way a little bit and they're going your way."

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame at Anaheim

When those things are going your way, they have a way of lifting a bench and galvanizing a team, which has generally played well of late.

Tuesday night, it finally was rewarded for that effort, thanks in large part to its goaltender.

"You can't say enough how important that is for a team to have that from your goaltender," Staal said. "I thought he was engaged right away and he made a lot of key saves at the right time. You need that. In order to get wins in this League, you have to have great goaltending and Al was that tonight."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 4, Ducks 2

Video: Wild rally to defeat Ducks

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