Staal, rookies power Wild to 6-4 win against Islanders
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A quick start, two rookies contributing and some scoring opportunities while on the penalty kill helped the Minnesota Wild recover from a dreary loss at home.
Eric Staal had a goal and assist, Luke Kunin and Zack Mitchell each scored their first NHL goals, and Minnesota beat the New York Islanders 6-4 on Thursday night.
Marcus Foligno, Jason Zucker and Jonas Brodin also scored for Minnesota. Devan Dubnyk stopped 29 shots to win for the second time in six starts this season for the Wild, who lost 1-0 at home on Tuesday against Vancouver, their fifth loss in regulation or overtime through seven games in a season filled with high expectations.
“Not a game we were happy with, which we shouldn’t have been,” Staal said of the loss to the Canucks. “The right response is to come out firing and ready to go, and we showed that in the first period by being on top of them, executing and creating a gap. Good win for us and now we’ll try and build on it and be ready for a big team on Saturday.”
Anthony Beauvillier, Nick Leddy, Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal scored for New York, which had won three in a row. Thomas Greiss finished with 27 saves.
“They’re pretty banged up, a lot of their top guys are out, and it’s an opportunity for us to take advantage of a team that’s just fighting it a little bit,” Lee said. “Clearly, they came out and did a much better job tonight.”
Staal scored short-handed to cap a three-goal first-period burst for Minnesota in 7:26. He later assisted on Kunin’s tally as the rookie became the first player in Wild history to score short-handed for his first NHL goal, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
New York entered the game with the league’s worst power play at 7.1 percent this season and had allowed three short-handed goals in its first nine games. The Islanders were 0 for 5 on the power play against the Wild, in addition to allowing two more short-handed goals.
“The power play, just lethargic, lax, soft,” New York coach Doug Weight said. “Zero battle. Decisions, execution, little flip passes, half speed breakout, just really unacceptable.”
Minnesota overwhelmed the Islanders from the outset.
The Wild were outshooting the Islanders 10-0 at the start of the game and 13-1 after Staal earned a breakaway for a short-handed marker. Kunin’s tally came in the second as Staal broke free on a 2-on-1. The veteran center sent a cross-ice pass to Kunin, who snapped a quick shot past Greiss.
“Yeah, I would take it any way, whether it’s five on five, power play, shorthanded, I don’t care as long as it’s going into the back of the net,” Kunin said.
Mitchell, who was recalled from Iowa of the AHL earlier in the day, earned his first goal in the third when he pushed a rebound back towards Greiss, who appeared to kick the puck in the net.
“It wasn’t as pretty as Luke’s, but it still counts,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t say I envisioned it that way. Scoring around the net, that’s where the goals are.”
Greiss has allowed 17 goals on 166 shots in five games this season.
NOTES: Wild F Nino Niederreiter (left high ankle sprain) skated with the team during Thursday’s morning skate and could be looking at a return next week. He’s missed five games with the injury. ... New York is 2 for 33 on the power play this season (6.1 percent). ... Minnesota tied its franchise record with two short-handed goals in a game, the third time it’s done so in franchise history. ... Islanders F Josh Bailey had three assists and leads the team with seven assists this season.
Islanders: At Nashville on Saturday.
Wild: Host Pittsburgh on Saturday.