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Suddenly surging Staal snaps skid in style

Veteran centerman ends longest drought to start a season with two goals in 75 seconds Tuesday in win over Oilers

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- Entering the night Tuesday, Eric Staal had scored 417 goals in an NHL career that has spanned 16 years and nearly 1,200 games.

Many of those goals have been of the highlight-reel variety, but few have brought the sense of relief from Staal as the one he scored 11:33 into the WIld's 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center.

Few have probably been as ugly either, but when you're mirred in a slump nearly 500 minutes in length, any goal is beautiful. 

Staal went the first 491-plus minutes of the 2019-20 season without a single goal, a rarity for the dependable centerman who has skated in five NHL All-Star Games and won a Stanley Cup. 

It was the longest Staal had ever gone to start a season without scoring a goal. He hadn't had a slower start to the season than his rookie year in 2003, when he went his first five NHL games without a goal.

Video: EDM@MIN: Staal backhands puck home in front

"I feel like you almost just want to get that zero out of the way as soon as possible," Staal said. "When you're having a tough stretch as a group and you're not generating as much as you hoped or should be, that can get difficult. You just have to battle through, stick with it. It was nice to be able to contribute and get those tonight."

How much of a relief was Staal's first goal of the season? Peep that cele.

"Felt good to get that one and it's amazing what a little confidence will do," Staal said. "Confidence is a big thing for anybody and I was trying to battle through it there for a bit. Hopefully I've got it and can continue to build and keep trying to help us win games."

Video: EDM@MIN: Staal backhands in his second goal

The old hockey adage is that most goal scorers score in bunches. 

Well, that was certainly the case for Staal, who waited all of 75 seconds to tally his second of the season, burying a backhander of a rebound from a point shot by Carson Soucy.

The normally low-key Staal was so jazzed by the sudden infusion of goal scoring that he actually did a real shimmy, channeling, he said, former Hurricanes teammate Jussi Jokinen.

Tweet from @mnwild: Mood. 😄#EDMvsMIN | #mnwild

"You never want to go long stretches for sure. It was a tough grind, no question, but what are you gonna do?" Staal said. "You gotta keep playing, you gotta compete, you gotta work and I thought the last couple games was better in that regard, as far as moving and skating better."

"When you do that consistently, you are going to get looks and opportunity. Tonight they went in, and hopefully we can build on it."

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau felt like the momentum was building for Staal, who whiffed on a wide open net on Sunday in Montreal, but got an assist on Marcus Foligno's goal later in the same shift. 

Video: Locker room postgame vs Edmonton

Literally, all that stood in Staal's way of breaking his dry spell was the blade of a defenseman's stick. There was no goalie and nothing but cage in front of him.

But when things change, they can change fast. Like two goals in 75 seconds fast. 

"Eventually it was going to happen," Boudreau said. "But I think you could see the elevation in his game even from two games ago to last game to this game. It's just been going skyward, so to me it was a matter of time before he did something."

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Edmonton

So sure that his hex-breaking goal was coming on Tuesday, Staal didn't flinch when a puck rolled off his stick earlier in the shift that he scored on. 

There was no doubt.

"No, not tonight. Even last game, I felt ... you just gotta be determined," Staal said. "At the end of the day, you gotta be determined to break through, do your job and be a contributor to this group. That's what I'm counting on doing and the biggest thing is getting wins and we got that tonight."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Oilers 0

Video: EDM@MIN: Dubnyk leaves game after collision in net

Video: Staal scores two as Wild defeat Oilers, 3-0

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