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Total team effort guides Wild in impressive win at Tampa

Minnesota gets contributions from up and down the lineup as Wild extends points streak to eight games

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

TAMPA -- Fresh off post-game interviews with both television and radio, Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk walked into the team's dressing room with some extra jam in his 6-foot-6 stride.

After making 25 saves and shutting out the NHL's best team -- on their home ice sheet -- one can understand why. 

The shutout was his second of the season as he backstopped the Wild to its most impressive win of the campaign, a 3-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

Tweet from @mnwild: Devan Dubnyk, Jason Zucker & Ryan Donato react to #mnwild's impressive 3-0 win over Tampa.

"The focus from start to finish was great," Dubnyk said. "Every line that came on the ice, I can't think of one shift that, whether we were in their end, the neutral zone or our end, we weren't just dialed and making big plays."

How good has Tampa Bay been on home ice this season?

• The regulation loss was just its sixth in 36 games and its first since Jan. 17. The Lightning had won 11 straight games at Amalie Arena and was coming off consecutive victories to start a four-game homestand where it won by a combined score of 10-3. 

• It was just the second time this season Tampa Bay had been shutout, the first in regulation and the first time it had been blanked in a 60-minute game in nearly a year. 

• The Lightning entered the game No. 1 in the League in offense, No. 1 in the League in penalty kill and had the NHL's leading scorer stalking the right wing of its "second" line. 

• Tampa Bay began the night 17 points better than the next best team in the League and would have clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win on Thursday.

That celebration -- while inevitable -- will have to wait for another day thanks to one of the best 60-minute, 200-foot efforts you'll see.

Video: MIN@TBL: Zucker powers Wild's win with natural hatty

Jason Zucker secured his second career hat trick and now has six goals in his past six games (and 20 in a season for the fourth time in his career). 

The Wild killed both Tampa Bay power plays, including one with 5:07 remaining in regulation. 

Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek were "beasts" according to coach Bruce Boudreau. Eriksson Ek was credited with seven shots on goal and was a stud all over the rink.

Minnesota was credited with 18 blocked shots, led by three apiece from stalwart defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter, but seemingly had sticks and bodies in shooting lanes all night long.

Newcomer Ryan Donato had a pair of assists, his third multi-point effort in eight games since joining the team. During that stretch, he has two goals, seven assists and is a plus-7.

Eric Staal ran his points streak to eight games, while Eric Fehr moved his to three and won 11 of 15 draws on the night.

All over the place, the Wild was getting contributions from players up and down the lineup. 

Tweet from @mnwild: Bruce Boudreau calls it Devan Dubnyk's best game as #mnwild bests Tampa 3-0.

"For whatever reason, we had some tremendous energy today and I thought we pressured them all night long," Boudreau said. "And when you pressure any team, it's tough to make plays. As great as this team is, and believe me, they're great, I thought we were not only forechecking but we were coming back really hard."

Zucker's emergence over the past two weeks has been instrumental in the Wild securing at least a point in eight consecutive games and posting a 6-0-2 record during that stretch.

His five-game point streak was halted Tuesday night in Nashville, but he more than made up for it on Thursday, deflecting a Donato shot in the first period for his first goal, then batting a loose puck out of mid-air for his second early in the third period, giving Minnesota an all-important two-goal lead.

Video: MIN@TBL: Vasilevskiy, Dubnyk trade tough saves in 2nd

"I'm just trying to work. I'm just trying to work hard. That's really all it is, and my two linemates are playing great," Zucker said. "Whether it's [Greenway] or [Donato] right now, they're playing really well. Staalsy, he's always steady down the middle. Just trying to work and make sure we're all a cohesive unit."

With the Lightning net empty, Staal worked hard to get Zucker the puck in the final minutes to help him get the hat trick. After whistling a pair of shots just wide, he hit the cage on try No. 3.

"Third time's a charm," Zucker said.

Zucker's name was a popular one in the rumor mill heading into last week's trade deadline, and he admitted the stress of hearing his name bantered about may have taken its toll. But over the past 10 days, his mind has been at ease knowing his immediate future remains in Minnesota and with the only team he's ever known.

That confidence has shown on the ice. Zucker now has five goals and an assist and is a plus-3 in five games since the deadline. His goal in Winnipeg on Feb. 26 tied the game in the final two minutes of regulation while his three goals on Thursday provided the entirety of the offense.

Boudreau said he hasn't been able to pinpoint one thing Zucker has done that has been the key to his recent success, but he doesn't want that to deter him from continuing.

"I want him to keep going," Boudreau said. "Last year, he went through droughts and then he'd score seven goals in a row. So I just hope this streak doesn't end."

The same can be said of the Wild's points streak, which has now lasted the entirety of a brutal stretch in the schedule in which the WIld has played six consecutive teams inside the playoff bubble., including road wins in Winnipeg, Calgary and Tampa, a home win against St. Louis and a pair of shootout losses against Nashville.

Donato's arrival coincided with the Wild's winning ways. He still hasn't experienced a regulation loss with Minnesota.

"From what I could tell, guys, they're sick of being down. I think guys are sick of losing. And I think now we're on kind of a winning streak and maybe a loss here and there, but I think the guys are, they call it riding the wave," Donato said. "I think they're staying high as possible, staying positive and I think that brings us a better mentality heading into the games."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Lightning 0

Video: Zucker collects the hat trick in Wild's 3-0 win

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