Zucker, Dubnyk lead Wild past Lightning 3-0
By Erik Erlendsson
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jason Zucker kept putting the puck in the net for the Minnesota Wild. And, Devan Dubnyk refused to let any get by him.
Zucker scored all three of Minnesota’s goals for his first career hat trick, Dubnyk made 25 saves for his second shutout of the season and the Wild beat Tampa Bay 3-0 on Thursday night to deny the Lightning a chance to become the first NHL team to clinch a playoff spot.
The Wild improved to 6-0-2 in their last eight games and maintained a hold on the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference playoff race, four points ahead of Colorado with 14 games remaining for both teams.
“We had some tremendous energy today and we pressured them all night long,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When you pressure any team, it’s tough to make plays. We were forechecking, we stripped pucks and I thought it was (Dubnyk’s) best game of the year.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 27 saves, but saw his 10-game winning streak snapped one game short of tying the franchise record set by Louis Domingue earlier this season.
A victory by the Lightning would have clinched a playoff spot after Columbus lost to Pittsburgh earlier Thursday night.
Tampa Bay lost for the second time in four games after a 12-0-2 stretch in the previous 14, and were shut out for the second time this season — first in regulation.
“We played a stubborn game tonight and stubborn in the sense that we didn’t manage the puck at all,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “When you have to play that grind-it-out game, we refused to play it tonight.”
Zucker put the Wild in front in the first period off a rush play, getting a deflection on Donato’s shot at 10:50.
Minnesota protected the lead with a strong defensive effort the rest of the way. And the rare times the Lightning produced a chance, Dubnyk was there to keep the highest-scoring team in the league off the board.
Dubnyk’s best save at 6:44 of the second period when Anthony Cirelli raced in on a breakaway chance. But Dubnyk came out with an aggressive poke check attempt and stopped the puck with his helmet to keep the Wild in the lead.
“I almost changed my mine at the end because he cut to the middle, but I already committed to it,” Dubnyk said. “It’s about timing, it’s a left-handed shot coming down that side. It helps having a 10-foot wingspan when I spread out, so if I time it properly and I’m willing to take a shin pad to the forehead it usually works.”
Zucker doubled Minnesota’s lead in the third period during a scramble in front, knocking the puck out of the air and into the vacated part of the net. The play was originally ruled no goal for being hit with a high stick. But the officials discussed the play and ruled it a legal goal before going to video review, where the goal was upheld.
Zucker completed the hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:46 left.
“I’m just trying to work hard, that’s all it is,” said Zucker, who reached the 20-goal mark for the third consecutive season and fourth in the past five. “My linemates are playing great and we’re just trying to be a cohesive unit.”
NOTES: The Wild outshot Tampa Bay 14-5 in the third period. … Minnesota C Victor Rask participated in the morning skate, his first practice with the team since suffering an undisclosed lower-body injury on Feb. 12. … Former Lightning RW J.T. Brown returned to Tampa for the first time since he was put on waivers last season. Brown appeared in 286 games during parts of six seasons from 2011-18. … Tampa Bay trailed after the first period for just the 19 time this season in 68 games. .. Wild C Luke Kunin left in the second period and did not return after struggling to get to his skates following a hit from Cedric Paquette. Boudreau said after the game Kunin suffered an upper-body injury. . Wild C Eric Staal extended his scoring streak to eight games.
Lightning: Host Detroit on Saturday.
Wild: At Florida on Friday.
STARS 4, AVALANCHE 0
DALLAS (AP) — Alexander Radulov recorded his first career hat trick in his return after missing the previous game for disciplinary reasons, and Ben Bishop stopped 31 shots in his second consecutive shutout as the Dallas Stars beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 on Thursday night.
Jamie Benn added his 25th goal of the season for the Stars, who hold the first wild card in the Western Conference. Benn also assisted on Radulov’s first goal.
Radulov scored once in each period, including an empty-net breakaway with 2:58 left in the game. That gave the 32-year-old Russian his first hat trick in his six NHL seasons, and he now has 20 goals this season.
With its fourth win in a row, Dallas has 75 points and moved five points ahead of the Avalanche, who started the night the first team out of the second wild card.
Radulov was a healthy scratch by coach Jim Montgomery and didn’t play in the Stars’ 1-0 home win over the New York Rangers on Tuesday after he arrived late for the morning skate. He was also benched for part of a period earlier this season.
Bishop got his 29th career shutout, and has held consecutive teams scoreless for the first time in his 362 career games over 11 NHL seasons. He had 28 saves in that win against the Rangers and has gone more than 124 minutes since giving up a goal.
Dallas went ahead to stay with 3:46 left in the first period when Radulov was in front of the net and shot the puck past Semyon Varlamov into the right side of the net. About midway through the second period, Radulov whizzed another shot into the right side, this time from the top of the right circle.
Benn scored on a one-timer after Jason Dickinson regained control of the puck after his shot was rejected by Varlamov. Dickinson was behind the net when he passed to Benn, who had a hat trick Saturday in St. Louis.
NOTES: Varlamov had 26 saves. He was replaced by backup Philipp Grubauer for a few minutes in the third period when he had to leave the ice to take care of a skate issue. He did return to the game. … Stars F Andrew Cogliano was back in the lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury. Cogliano, acquired from Anaheim in a trade in mid-January, had never before missed games because of injury in his 12 NHL seasons.