Special teams on a special night gave the Wild a 3-0 victory Saturday in Vancouver.
Winger Matt Boldy’s power-play goal in the first period and center Connor Dewar’s second-period shorthanded goal provided a lead the Wild never relinquished – not on a night when goaltender Filip Gustavsson stopped. the 35 shots he faced on his first NHL shutout.
Sam Steel added an insurance goal midway through the third period, just in case.
All three goals came in former Gophers captain Sammy Walker’s NHL debut.
Walker helped create Boldy’s goal and narrowly missed his first NHL goal when his third-period breakaway shot went just over the crossbar.
Wild star Kirill Kaprizov’s franchise-record scoring streak ended at 14 games as the Wild ended a four-game trip 2-2 after winning at Dallas in a shootout and lost in Calgary and Edmonton before Saturday’s win.
The Wild now return home for four games starting Monday against Edmonton.
The shutout was Gustavsson’s fourth straight win, a career high. He is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.
“It’s great,” Gustavsson said in a post-match interview with Bally Sports North. “I had the chance to get it before and they scored with five minutes left in those two games. And now I finally held on and got my first.”
On Friday, the Wild gave up two power-play goals and an empty-netter in a 5-2 loss to the Oilers.
On Saturday, Boldy and Dewar both scored late in the period, just what their team needed.
Boldy’s spot-on rebound goal in the right circle came at 16:43 in the first period and was his 10th this season, and third on the team.
Wild defenseman Calen Addison got an assist on Boldy’s goal as he returned to the lineup on Saturday after being knocked out healthy for the first time of the season Friday in Edmonton. Alex Goligoski came out to make room for Addison.
Addison’s 15 points this season – two goals, 13 assists – are fifth among NHL rookies and second among rookies in assists. He also leads all rookies with 11 power-play points, all assists.
Dewar’s goal, unassisted at 16:08 into the second period, made it 2-0 after his team had just been penalized three straight times, the last for too many men on the ice.
It also came just hours after Wild coach Dean Evason lamented his team’s penalty kill in Edmonton after it had been so good for most of the season.
It was Dewar’s third shorthanded goal this season — his fourth overall — and the Wild’s sixth shorthanded goal this season. His four shorthanded points – an assist to go along with the three goals – lead the NHL this season.
“I’ve been killing penalties all my life,” Dewar said in a second TV interview. “I’m sort of looking to make a career out of it, so hopefully that continues.”
On Friday, the Wild recalled Walker from Iowa to the AHL and reassigned forward Joseph Cramarossa.
They did so after Walker played 21 games at Iowa this season and arrived at Minnesota leading all AHL rookies in points and tied for first among all AHL rookies in the goals. He led Iowa in points (22), goals (11) and power-play goals (six).
He made his NHL debut on a line with Boldy and Frederick Gaudreau.
Evason called Walker’s debut “really good” and praised his speed and composure.
“Obviously he’s got speed,” Evason told reporters after the game. “When you get a breakaway in your first game in the National Hockey League, you know you can go for it. He was good defensively. We really liked the way it handled. He didn’t panic. should improve over time.”
Chosen by Tampa Bay in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Draft with the 200th overall pick, Walker signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Wild last summer. He was Minnesota’s 2018 Mr. Hockey in his senior season at Edina — the only Hornet to win the award — and was the Big Ten’s freshman. He was also the Gophers’ first three-year captain.
Walker wore the No. 74 jersey in his debut on Saturday night and his speed and presence earned him a Vancouver hook penalty that created Boldy’s opportunistic power-play goal.
“It was amazing,” Walker said in a first TV interview about his first NHL action. “Just a dream come true. There aren’t many other words that can describe it.”
As Walker played his first game, veteran Wild forward Marcus Foligno played his 700th career game and celebrated with a fight with Canuck Riley Stillman that started the second period.
Foligno played 347 games with Buffalo after making his NHL debut there in the 2011-12 season. He has played 353 games now with the Wild.
The Star Tribune did not send the author of this article to the game. It was written using a broadcast, interviews and other documents.
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