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The shorty, the tip in, & the empty net goal - Wild roll in Montreal off Zucker hat-trick and Dubnyk shutout

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NHL: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild came into Montreal needing a little life in their game. Having lost 3 straight, and falling just last night to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Wild were desperate to secure a win on the road against the Montreal Canadiens. Thanks to 3 goals from Jason Zucker, and a 41 save shutout performance from Devan Dubnyk, the Wild were able to get a big road win and have a chance to salvage this 4 game road trip on Saturday against the Flyers.

It wasn’t all fun and games though. The Wild looked pretty shaky throughout the 2nd period, and the Canadiens beat Dubnyk twice in the game but the first one was waved off immediately for a deflection with a high stick, and the 2nd Bruce Boudreau would challenge for goaltender interference. Bruce would be vindicated and win his first challenge of the season, reversing the goal. The Montreal fans let the refs know for the remainder of the game their displeasure with the reversal, or they were cheering for Dubnyk. Tough to tell with all those French accents in the building.

Dubs looked solid tonight, as his 41 save performance would indicate. He was gobbling up loose pucks, tracking really well, and if things did get a little dicey his defense was there to clear the danger. He’s looked pretty shaky as of late, but tonight you couldn’t even tell he has been struggling lately or that he was playing his 2nd game in 24 hours.

Speaking of 24 hours, Jason Zucker is on fire folks. He pocketed 2 goals last night in Toronto and followed that performance up tonight with a hat-trick in Montreal. 1 short-handed goal, 1 nice deflection from a Nino Niederreiter shot, and he capped it off with a late empty-net goal. It’s Zucker’s first career hat-trick and that shorty would pull the Wild into a tie for the lead in the league 4 short-handed goals on the season.

The game was scoreless going into the 3rd period. To open the show though both teams got some chances throughout the 1st period, but the only time either netminder was beat was due to a deflection from a high stick that beat Dubnyk, and that was obviously waved off immediately and the no-goal was confirmed after review. The goofy bounce had a lot of Wild fans, and the team in general thinking “not again” as goofy bounces and deflections have been their Achilles heel lately.

Finding the net proved difficult for the Wild in the 2nd period. Although they would eventually muster up 8 shots on goal in the middle frame, most of those came in the back-third of the period as the Wild started to find their legs, but early it was all Montreal who ripped 17 shots on goal in the 2nd. Dubnyk stood tall though. He didn’t make any overly spectacular saves tonight, and to that you have to give credit to the defense who were playing very well tonight.

They did allow the Canadiens to shoot at will all game, but the shots were mostly coming from the outside, especially late in the game when Montreal was trying to play catch up and get a fortunate bounce or deflection to beat Dubs. Ryan Suter racked up 30 minutes tonight while Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly played 8:41 and 11:00 respectively, but it all seemed to go the Wild’s way tonight.

All 3 goals for the game would come in the 3rd period off the stick of Zucker. His 1st goal of the game was a beauty on the PK. Granlund chased down a loose puck and fed it into the middle of the ice. Zucker skated right into it, went forehand, backhand and lifted it over Lakeville, Minnesota native Charlie Lindgren’s blocker.

Zucker’s 2nd goal came when he posted up in front of Lindgren. Eric Staal would save the zone and Nino would end up firing the shot on net. Zucker showed some great hands and deflected the puck past Lindgren for his 2nd of the game. Of course Boudreau would put Zucker out for the end of the game when Montreal had pulled their goalie to give him a chance to get a hat-trick. Zucker fired that one in from the blue line and it was all smiles for the new father.

Staal earned his 500th career assist tonight on Jason Zucker’s 2nd goal of the evening. Next up for the Wild, the finish off this road trip on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, who beat the Chicago Blackhawks tonight 3-1. Tonight’s win also gives the team a chance to secure 4 of a possible 8 points on the road. After losing 3 straight, tonight’s win along with a win on Saturday should go a long way towards easing some of the tension around this team right now.