Recap

Leafs' offence sputters in uninspiring loss to Wild

Alex Stalock stopped 28 shots to complete his first NHL shutout in three seasons, steering the Minnesota Wild past the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

Toronto shut out for 1st time in over a year

Minnesota goalie Alex Stalock stops a shot by Toronto forward Connor Brown during the Wild's 2-0 win over Toronto on Thursday. (Hannah Foslien/The Associated Press)

Alex Stalock started his extended stretch of action in the Minnesota net with his first NHL shutout in three seasons.

Blanking a Toronto team that tossed him aside less than two years ago made the feat that much sweeter.

Stalock stopped 28 shots for his fifth career shutout, using his first start during Devan Dubnyk's absence to steer the Wild past the Maple Leafs 2-0 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

Tyler Ennis scored late in the first period and Mikael Granlund added a goal midway through the third period for the Wild, whose first three wins on the streak were all in extra time. They handed the Maple Leafs their first blank slate in more than a year, since a 3-0 loss at Calgary on Nov. 30, 2016. Since losing 4-2 to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Nov. 8, the Wild are 12-4-1 in their last 17 games for an NHL-leading 25 points over that span. This was their fifth straight win at home.

Toronto failed to score a goal for the first time in over a year as they fall 2-0 to Minnesota. 1:23

"You just hope you can kind of keep it rolling. The way this group's playing right now, just coming to the rink, everybody's smiling. Everybody's having fun," said Stalock, who was acquired by Toronto from San Jose right before the trade deadline in 2016 but was stashed away in the AHL .

Stalock signed with Minnesota before last season and was elevated this year to the primary backup role for Dubnyk, who was pulled after one period into the previous game and will miss at least another week because of an unspecified lower-body injury. So the Wild net for now is in the hands of Stalock, who once played at South St. Paul High School just 5 miles from Xcel Energy Center.

"He's got a lot of energy, he's a great guy, and he's given us a lot of confidence," Ennis said. "And when you've got confidence like that, you create more offence."

Powerplay struggles

The Maple Leafs, who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and entered the game with the fifth-highest scoring average in the league, have totalled three goals over their last three games without young star centre Auston Matthews because of an upper-body injury.

"We're just doubting ourselves too much," centre Mitch Marner said. "We're not trusting ourselves with the puck."

The Wild killed all four Maple Leafs power plays, making them 24 for 25 over their last eight home games, when they're 7-0-1. Their home penalty kill (44 of 47) is the best in the league.

"We'll have to get that fixed," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said, "because that's a critical part."

The Maple Leafs were out of rhythm all night, with the Wild smothering their shooting lanes for 21 blocked shots. They had only six shots on goal at the midpoint of the game, after going a span of 28-plus minutes with only three tries on target. Twenty-one attempts simply went wide of the net.

'They all knew about it'

The Wild were more than eager to sacrifice their bodies to help Stalock complete a shutout, given his brief, history with the Maple Leafs that served as the low point of his eight-year professional career.

"I don't think we tried to mention it," Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said, "but they all knew about it."

All four of Stalock's previous NHL shutouts came with the Sharks.

"He works so hard in practice and is such a good teammate," defenceman Ryan Suter said. "Every time he's in there, you want to make sure you play hard for him. You want to do the same for Duby, but a little extra when your main guy goes down."

Ennis was a healthy scratch in the previous game for the first time all season, his first with the Wild. Boudreau said Ennis and fourth-line mates Daniel Winnik and Chris Stewart, both Toronto natives, were his best trio of the night.

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