VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Eric Staal is having the type of scoring surge where it seems the puck finds its way into the net whenever he shoots.
The Minnesota center scored the go-ahead goal in the second period and the Wild surged past the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Friday night.
Staal has 11 goals in his last nine games, giving him 37 for the season — just three behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league lead.
“A lot of people say, ‘Look how lucky he is,'” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But in the end, it’s not luck. The good players do that.”
Zach Parise, Matt Cullen, Marcus Foligno and Charlie Coyle —with an empty-netter — also scored for the Wild, who have won three straight and eight of their past 10. Minnesota leads Dallas by three points for third in the Central Division and trails Winnipeg by six points for second.
Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves for Minnesota.
The 41-year-old Cullen, the oldest active player in the NHL, had a goal and an assist — and has scored five of his 10 goals this season in the past 10 games.
The Wild are currently headed for the playoffs, where the former Pittsburgh Penguins star has a chance to reach his third straight Stanley Cup final.
“I get excited about what lies in front when the games get big and everything becomes more magnified and more important,” Cullen said. “That’s why I still play. I do love this time of year.”
Michael Del Zotto and Jussi Jokinen scored for the Canucks, who wrapped up a five-game homestand with a 1-2-2 record. Anders Nilsson finished with 31 saves.
“It’s not hard to have a better effort than we had last game. That was terrible,” said Del Zotto, referring to a 2-1 loss to Arizona on Wednesday. “We talked about it all year, we preach consistently and our effort and compete level has to be there every night.”
The first-period scoring all happened in the first 1:42. Vancouver tallied 53 seconds in when Del Zotto’s hard wrist shot from the face-off circle slipped through Dubnyk’s pads, allowing the defenseman to collect his rebound and score on a wraparound.
Parise was next, gaining control of a loose puck at the side of the Vancouver net and then deftly lifting it behind Nilsson’s shoulder to quiet the crowd.
After Cullen missed on an easy goal with Nilsson out of position, Canucks forward Sam Gagner had a goal waved off for kicking.
Nilsson robbed Cullen early in the second with a great glove save, but Cullen finally got his goal at 2:46, when Tyler Ennis made a nice cross-ice pass to Cullen streaking through the slot.
Jokinen scored in his second straight game to make it 2-2 in the second. A shot by Erik Gudbranson rebounded right to Jokinen for the easy putback.
Mikael Granlund’s wrist shot from a hard angle appeared to have bounced off Troy Stecher’s skate and in to make it 3-2. Staal, who was tied up with Stecher in the crease, was credited with the goal.
In the third, Dubnyk kicked out a pad to deny Jokinen in the slot, then had some luck when a puck trickled through his pads only to hit the post before defenseman Matt Dumba cleared it.
After Coyle scored an empty-netter with 43 seconds left, Foligno banged in a rebound to put the game away.
“It wasn’t good enough, but it was better,” Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin said. “I thought that we wanted to be part of this game. Last game, I thought we stepped on the ice and thought it was going to be an easy game. Tonight, we battled.”
NOTES: Defenseman Ben Hutton and forward Nikolay Goldobin were healthy scratches for Vancouver.
Wild: at Edmonton on Saturday night.
Canucks: at Arizona on Sunday night.
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