ST. PAUL, Minn. â€” Nino Niederreiter got his first goal in more than a month. Then, Alex Stalock won his first NHL start in more than a year.
By the end of the night, the Minnesota Wild â€” once the Western Conference’s top team this season â€” had their first dominant performance in what’s felt like forever.
Stalock made 18 saves in his first game with the Wild, Niederreiter scored twice and Minnesota beat the Ottawa Senators 5-1 on Thursday to end a four-game skid.
“The last couple games, we were working hard and we weren’t getting those two points at the end of the day,” said Chris Stewart, who had two assists. “Tonight was a step in the right direction.”
The Wild remained second in the West. Joel Eriksson Ek, Matt Dumba and Jason Pominville also scored for Minnesota.
Searching for a spark with Devan Dubnyk and backup Darcy Kuemper struggling, Minnesota recalled Stalock on Wednesday for his first start since last February with San Jose. The St. Paul native had spent six months in the minors.
Stalock allowed a goal on Ottawa’s seventh shot, but Niederreiter tied it less than a minute later. Stalock stopped everything after that, and Niederreiter added another goal in the second to put the Wild ahead for good.
Niederreiter hadn’t scored since Feb. 27.
“When you don’t score as a potentially top goal scorer you get frustrated and it creeps in your game and it’s tough on you mentally,” Niederreiter said. “And obviously when the first one gets in, you start feeling loose again and then it’s just a matter of time to get the next one.”
Craig Anderson had 21 saves for Ottawa. Mike Hoffman scored his 23rd goal of the season for the Senators, who are still trying to lock up a playoff spot but have lost three straight.
Ottawa played without captain and leading scorer Erik Karlsson, who was injured blocking a shot against Philadelphia on Tuesday and ended his streak of 324 consecutive games played. The Senators were also without Alexandre Burrows, who missed the game with an upper-body injury.
“I know we got injuries, but the guys that were in the lineup are able to play better than that,” coach Guy Boucher said.
Hoffman put the Senators up 1-0 on a sharp one-timer past Stalock at 16:20 of the first.
“As bad as it is, you don’t want to give up a goal, but when you give one up, it’s kind of a wake-up call,” Stalock said. “From there, I settled in and stopped the shots from the outside, so it was good.”
Niederreiter got his 21st goal 47 seconds later when he poked in a rebound off Stewart’s shot. He picked up No. 22 at 7:08 of the second on a backhander. Then, at 17:32, Charlie Coyle made a pretty drop to a streaking Eriksson Ek in front of the net for a two-goal lead. Dumba added a power-play goal at 15:14 of the third, and Pominville scored his 13th of the season with eight minutes left.
It was Minnesota’s first four-goal win since Jan. 26 against St. Louis.
“I hope it’s not the culmination,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I hope we keep building. It’s one game. It’ll be a little tougher in Nashville. We’ll see how we do there. Then we’ll have a little better read on where we are.”
NOTES: Senators C Zack Smith got an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return. Asked if Karlsson or Smith could return this weekend, Boucher said, “I don’t know what to tell you, I really don’t.” … Stalock â€” who went 20-16-7 in 45 games with Iowa of the AHL â€” last played in Minnesota in 2015 with San Jose. The Sharks beat the Wild 4-3 in overtime. … Pominville played in his 900th career game. … Niederreiter had his fifth two-goal game of the season.
Senators: At Winnipeg on Saturday.
Wild: At Nashville on Saturday.
Andres Ybarra, The Associated Press