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A Win! Wild blank Senators 2-0 in Ottawa

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It wasn’t pretty, but strong defensive play leads to an appearance in the win column.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild are winless no longer as they went into Canadian Tire Centre and walked out with a 2-0 decision over the Ottawa Senators on Monday. Victor Rask’s first goal of 2019-20 was the game-winner and Zach Parise’s empty-netter finalized the score to guide the Wild to their first victory under general manager Bill Guerin. Alex Stalock registered his fifth career shutout (and first since December of 2017) with a 26-save performance to help this year’s team avoid becoming the second team in franchise history to open the season without a win in their first five games.

The main reason for Minnesota’s first win of 2019-20 was a Victor Rask wrist shot with 10:37 left in regulation. With Rask and Jordan Greenway doing work below Ottawa’s goal line in an effort to get the puck back, Greenway was able to scoop up a loose puck off the stick of J.G. Pageau and found Rask in the left faceoff circle. The former Hurricane ripped one short side past Craig Anderson’s shoulder for the game-winner before Zach Parise’s hustle play made it a 2-0 game with 2:19 left in regulation.

The story of the game was the Wild’s ability to finally suppress an opponent’s chances. Minnesota came in to today’s tilt yet to hold an opponent to three goals or less or 31 shots on goal or less in four tries, but they limited the Sens to just 26 shots on goal. It’s the Senators, I know, but with how the first few games have gone for the Wild it’s nice to finally see them with a solid defensive effort.

The ability to limit Ottawa’s offensive production spilled over into the penalty kill, where Minnesota prevented the Sens from converting on the man advantage despite handing the hosts five opportunities. In fact, Ottawa’s best special team’s chances may have come on the penalty kill, where Stalock denied a Pageau bid on a 2-on-1 in the first period and made a nice sprawling leg-pad save on Anthony Duclair’s solo chance late in the middle frame.

In a pretty important low-scoring affair it’s no surprise one of the other points of focus in today’s contest was Stalock. On top of the chances he had to see while the Wild were on the power play, Stalock also had a pretty impressive stop on Vladislav Namestnikov halfway through the opening frame (his inability to control the rebound on the original shot he faced may have created a situation where he had to make that nice save, but I digress). Stalock also made it interesting today by coming way the hell out of his net on a pair of plays. After he raced to within a few feet of the benches to clear a puck out of play just five minutes in, the Minnesota native decided to mosey on out into the high slot to catch a pop-up seven minutes into the second stanza.

The game started with a real slow pace, as the teams spent most of the opening few minutes in the neutral zone and Eric Staal’s shot on Anderson 5:08 into the contest evened the shot count at one. Neither team consistently applied pressure on their opponents or pieced together a string of scoring opportunities in the opening frame, as the best chance overall most likely came from Tyler Ennis on a 2-on-1 where he launched a shot over the net.

Although the second period didn’t result in the game’s first goal, both teams did produce more quality chances. Minnesota’s best scoring chance of the first 40 minutes came from Jason Zucker, who took a Matt Dumba multi-line pass from the Senators’ blue line right to the net but was denied by Anderson. Zucker did draw a hook out of Thomas Chabot on the play, but the Wild went 0-for-6 on the power play in the win.

Minnesota looks to make it two straight tomorrow in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.