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'Road sleep' the cure-all for Zucker?

Wild forward has five goals and six points on three-game road trip so far

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

MONTREAL -- Apparently, all Jason Zucker needed was a little sleep.

The father of newborn baby Hendrix, born four days before Halloween, Zucker has found out quickly that late-night feedings and diaper changes can wreak havoc on one's body clock. 

Perhaps getting on the road was just what the doctor ordered. At least that's what his wife, Carly, would have you believe.

Tweet from @CarlyAplin: Looking for a host family for Jason for the rest of the season... the man clearly needs sleep, right? Seriously, though, crazy good performance by Dubnyk ���� https://t.co/zNykN63eTL

Zucker tallied his first career hat trick in Montreal on Thursday, accounting for all of Minnesota's offense in a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. 

The standout performance came on the heels of a two-goal night in Toronto just 24 hours earlier.

It all makes sense, doesn't it? Four home games since the arrival of Hendrix, with no goals to show for it. Three games on the road, and five goals, including a three-game point streak?

Seems like a pretty convincing case.

"This whole sleep thing has gotten out of control, I think," Zucker said with a grin following the game on Thursday. "Nobody knows what Carly's actually done for me at home. She's made sure I've gotten plenty of sleep. This is definitely a coincidence."

Whatever is the reason for Zucker's sudden offensive surge, the Wild is hoping it remains intact. The speedy winger now leads the club with eight goals and 13 points and appears poised to shatter career highs in both categories if he can continue his torrid pace to start the year.

His emergence through the first month has helped the Wild stay afloat as it attempts to weather injuries to big time players over the first couple of weeks.

Even as the pieces have begun to filter back into the lineup, Zucker has continued being among the best players on the ice on a nightly basis.

"He's got the speed and he's going to the front of the net, and when you're going to the front of the net, usually good things happen because that's where the pucks end up," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "He's bought into that."

Prior to the Wild's current road trip, Boudreau had noted that Zucker's legs didn't seem to be there. Understandably so, with all of the things happening away from the ice. But Zucker, who began the season with multi-point efforts in three of the first four games, had just a single point in the following seven contests.

It wasn't his speed he had lost, insisted Boudreau, it was something a little more subtle.

"It was the more tenacity. The speed's always been there. But he was tenacious," Boudreau said. "He stopped and he didn't swing. If he went by a guy, he stopped and went after him again. It was just a great game."

What once was lost, has now been found.

Zucker was an animal on the puck on Thursday, outmaneuvering a pair of Canadiens defensemen to score a beauty of a shorthanded goal early in the third period to get the Wild on the board in what went down as the game-winning goal.

After a nice set up by Mikael Granlund, Zucker used his burst to track down the puck, then used a forehand-backhand maneuver to create an opening on Canadiens goaltender Charlie Lindgren for his third career shorty.

Video: MIN@MTL: Zucker nets backhander for shorthanded goal

Goal number two came with him camped out in front of Lindgren. As a shot from the high slot by Eric Staal went toward the goal, Zucker got a stick on it and deflected it past Lindgren and off the camera in the back of the cage for a crucial 2-zip lead. 

Video: MIN@MTL: Zucker deflects in second goal of the game

Then in the final minute, Zucker raced to a loose puck in the neutral zone and calmly swept it into the net for his third of the night.

Video: MIN@MTL: Zucker completes hatty with empty-net goal

"We had a good first step last night and we just wanted to carry it into tonight," Zucker said. "I think every guy has taken it upon themselves to make sure they're stepping up and doing a little bit more. I think a lot of guys played really well tonight."

And if nothing else, Zucker has at least surrendered overnight baby duties once the Wild returns from its current four-city jaunt through the Eastern Conference. 

Tweet from @CarlyAplin: Officially out of overnight baby duties ���� SLEEP IS KING https://t.co/tPhY5mJgiG

But like a torrid goal-scoring pace, promises made via social media can sometimes be difficult to keep. The Wild just hopes it can ride out its red-hot winger a little bit longer.

"He's moving really well and the puck seems to be finding him," Staal said. "He's got some offensive skill to finish and right now. It's going in for him, so we want to keep that riding as long as we can."

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