The Minnesota Wild earned a commanding 7-1 victory over Montreal last night. Naturally, we'll mention some of the most noteworthy contributors to that outcome below, but it's also worth appreciating the fact that this is a small part of what has been a very successful first half of the season for Minnesota (albeit with one game left to go before the official halfway point).
Minnesota is 26-9-5 so far this season and a lot of that success comes from a spike offensively. This is shaping up to be the fifth straight season that the Wild have advanced to the playoffs, but in the previous six campaigns they never averaged more than 2.77 goals per game. So far this season the Wild are up to 3.23. That's thanks in part to the addition of Eric Staal, who has been the steal of the 2016 UFA market with 38 points in 40 games, but the Wild have also seen an increase in production from young forwards Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Zucker.
And of course the Wild have been backed by the stellar play of Devan Dubnyk, who so far is arguably the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. We'll have to see what the second half brings, but this is looking like a team that might have finally brought it all together after several good, but not great campaigns.
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FLYERS 5 CANUCKS 4 (Shootout)
Steve Mason got the start Thursday night, but he was pulled after allowing four goals on 24 shots through two periods. Michal Neuvirth took over in the third frame and made 14 saves en route to earning the win.
Ryan Miller kicked out 31 of 35 shots in regulation time. He stopped two of the three shootout attempts too, but Claude Giroux was able to beat him in the skills competition and that was enough to sink Vancouver in this one.
Markus Granlund found the back of the net twice. The Canucks forward now has 11 goals and 19 points in 44 games this season.
Sean Couturier scored a goal and registered an assist for the Flyers. He has eight goals and 12 points in 28 contests.
With the Flyers down 4-3 going into the third period, it was Brayden Schenn that scored the game-tying goal that eventually led to Philadelphia's victory. That was Schenn's 14th goal and 29th point in 41 games.
SENATORS 4 PENGUINS 1
Matt Murray made his return from a lower-body injury, but turned aside just 29 of 33 shots. In his defense though, Ottawa scored its first two goals with the man advantage.
Mike Hoffman scored one of those power-play goals and that marker also proved to be the game winner. He has 12 goals and 28 points in 36 contests in 2016-17.
Erik Karlsson assisted on two of Ottawa's four goals. He has seven goals and 34 points in 40 contests in 2016-17.
Mike Condon saved 29 of 30 shots last night. He's allowed just seven goals in his last four games, but even with Thursday's win he still has a modest 2-2-0 record over that stretch.
Conor Sheary accounted for the Penguins' lone goal. It was his 11th marker and 25th point in 34 games this season.
LIGHTNING 4 SABRES 2
This was an eventful night for Evander Kane as he scored a goal and also accumulated 16 penalty minutes. He got a two minute hooking minor in the first period and then in the third frame he received a double minor for hi-sticking Ben Bishop and unsportsmanlike conduct. That same incident also resulted in him receiving a miscount penalty. Tampa Bay, by the way, ended up scoring two goals on Kane penalties.
Ondrej Palat took advantage of the first Kane penalty in the first period and then found the back of the net again in the second frame. Palat capped off his big game with an assist on the game-winning goal.
It was Nikita Kucherov that netted the eventual winner. It was his 17th marker and 40th point in 36 games.
Ben Bishop turned aside 24 of 26 Lightning shots. It was his first game since Dec. 20 due to a lower-body injury.
Anders Nilsson stopped 25 of 28 shots last night. With that his record dropped to 7-4-4 in 15 games this season.
PREDATORS 2 BRUINS 1
Tuukka Rask left Thursday's game midway through the first period because of an upper-body injury. He turned aside the three shots he faced prior to leaving. Zane McIntyre stepped in and stopped 14 of 16 shots. Of course the big issue for Boston would be if Rask's injury proved to be serious and while it's too early to say for certain, he did tell CSN New England's Joe Haggerty after the game that he was "gonna be okay."
At the other end of the ice Juuse Saros stopped 35 of 36 shots last night. He has a 8-4-3 record, 1.25 GAA, and .957 save percentage in eight starts.
Filip Forsberg scored the game-winning goal. That was his 10th marker and 26th point in 42 games.
Austin Watson accounted for the Predators' other goal. He has four goals and 10 points in 38 contests.
Torey Krug found the back of the net on a power play. The blueliner has three goals and 26 points in 45 games this season.
WILD 7 CANADIENS 1
Carey Price was on the ice for all seven of Minnesota's goals and made a total of just 17 saves last night. For the most part, Price is having a terrific season, but he's struggled lately, allowing 26 goals in his last seven starts. Montreal has a 2-3-2 record over that span.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 of 21 Canadiens shots. He was just nine seconds away from a shutout, but he'll settle for his 22nd win in 32 starts.
Tomas Plekanec was the player that spoiled Dubnyk's shutout bid. He's on a three-game goal scoring streak after finding the back of the net just three times in his first 40 games.
Matt Dumba assisted on three of Minnesota's seven goals. That gives him six markers and 19 points in 40 games this season.
Eric Staal scored the game-winning goal and registered two assists. He has 14 goals and 38 points in 40 contests, which puts him just one point shy of his 2015-16 points total.
STARS 5 RED WINGS 2
Antti Niemi saved 31 of 33 shots on Thursday. He has a 9-7-4 record, 2.84 GAA, and .912 save percentage in 24 games.
Henrik Zetterberg scored a goal and registered an assist. That gives the Red Wings forward eight goals and 30 points in 42 contests.
John Klingberg netted the game-winning goal. He has six goals and 23 points in 41 contests in 2016-17.
Brett Ritchie also found the back of the net for Dallas. He has nine goals and 13 points in 43 games.
Petr Mrazek allowed four goals on just 20 shots. He's surrendered at least three goals in nine of his last 10 games.
DUCKS 4 AVALANCHE 1
Nathan MacKinnon netted the Avalanche's lone goal. He has 11 goals and 28 points in 40 contests in 2016-17.
Rickard Rakell found the back of the net and recorded an assist. He's up to 17 markers and 25 points in 33 contests in 2016-17.
Corey Perry snapped a 13-game goal scoring slump. He has eight markers and 32 points in 44 contests.
Semyon Varlamov kicked out 28 of 31 shots last night. He has a 6-15-0 record, 3.32 GAA, and .901 save percentage in 22 contests this season.
John Gibson saved 33 of 34 shots, making this the fifth straight start where he's allowed two or fewer goals. He has a 17-10-7 record, 2.34 GAA, and .920 save percentage in 34 games.
OILERS 3 DEVILS 2 (Overtime)
Cory Schneider turned aside 31 of 34 Oilers shots. This was his fourth straight loss, dropping his record to 12-14-7.
Leon Draisaitl scored the overtime winner and registered two assists. He has 16 goals and 38 points in 44 contests in 2016-17.
Connor McDavid assisted on two of Edmonton's three goals. Those were his 49th and 50th points in 44 games.
Cam Talbot stopped 17 of 19 shots last night. He never faced more than seven shots in a single period.
KINGS 5 BLUES 1
For the second straight game, Jake Allen couldn't last the full 60 minutes. This time Allen was pulled after allowing three goals on 15 shots through 25:00 minutes of play. Carter Hutton stepped in, but he surrendered another two goals on 13 shots.
Peter Budaj kicked out 21 of 22 St. Louis shots. This was his 300th career start (333rd overall game) and his 144th victory.
Paul Stastny was the only player to beat Budaj. It was his 10th goal and 23rd point in 41 games.
Tanner Pearson netted two goals last night. That gives him 13 markers and 23 points in 40 contests.
Jake Muzzin also found the back of the net twice. Those were his fifth and sixth goals of the 2016-17 campaign.