Hackett comes back strong, despite Wild loss
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Wild rookie goaltender Matt Hackett was coming off back-to-back starts in which he allowed four goals after a stellar opening to his NHL career.
Yet, he received the call again by coach Mike Yeo to start Tuesday night against the streaking Dallas Stars. As impressive as his first six games in a Minnesota uniform were, Tuesday might have been a truer indication of what type of goaltender Hackett is going to be for the Wild. Coming off two subpar outings and going against a quality team could at least demonstrate the mental makeup of the goaltender that is consistently ranked among Minnesota's top prospects.
Hackett did just what Yeo expected, recovering to make made 24 saves in a 1-0 loss to Dallas on Tuesday. In 10 games, he has a .934 save percentage, a 2.06 goals-against average and a 3-4-0 record.
"He's a pretty calm kid," Yeo said. "There were periods in that game where he wasn't really challenged too much, but there were other times where he had to be real sharp and he was. Especially the one save on the power play was that one certainly could have been a game-changer. But he's composed and focused, and technically he's very sound. I think we all have to be very impressed with what we've seen so far from a young kid."
The first six NHL appearances Hackett were as impressive as any goaltender in history. The team's third-round draft pick in the 2009 draft was 2-1 with a .971 save percentage and a 0.96-goals against average while starting just two of his first six games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hackett set an NHL record for the longest shutout streak to start a career by not allowing a goal in the first 102 minutes, 48 seconds.
He stopped all 34 shots in relief of Josh Harding in a win against the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 6 and followed up with a 42-save performance in a 4-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings in his first start.
Then he allowed four goals on 21 shots in a loss at Colorado. He came in for an injured Harding at Phoenix and earned the win, giving up two goals in 17 shots, before allowing four goals Sunday in a loss to the Calgary Flames.
But he was solid from the beginning Tuesday. He stopped 10 shots in the first and nine in the second before Dallas' Jamie Benn capitalized on an odd-man rush, scoring his 21s goal of the season at 3:46 of the third period after a pass redirected off of Minnesota's Stephane Veilleux's stick right to Benn.
"I felt good," Hackett said. "I felt I bounced back pretty good from last game. That's my job if I have a bad game, to come back and shut the door. So, I felt like I did a pretty good job of that tonight."
The Stars are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games and haven't lost in regulation since Feb. 19 against Nashville as they have vaulted to the top of the Pacific Division standings. Meanwhile, Minnesota has lost seven of its past eight games and scored 11 total goals during that span.
The Wild has played three straight one-goal games going 1-1-1 over the stretch and the lack of scoring has given Minnesota — and its goaltenders — little room for error. The Wild were shutout Tuesday for the fourth time in the past eight games. Minnesota was 0 for 4 on the power play.
"It's a step up in direction from the last game," forward Devin Setoguchi said. "Guys were working out there and that's a positive note, but you got to score goals, especially when Hack plays that kind of game. He made some big stops and us as power-play players, we've got to score. We had some good looks, you just have to go down and bury those chances."
Yeo thought his team took a step forward.
"Much better effort tonight," Yeo said. "The game was actually very reminiscent of games that we won earlier in the year when we were in first place. I remember a couple of those games, the Edmonton game, St. Louis game.
"We didn't give up much tonight. Certainly it would have been nice to capitalize on one of those power plays, but just needed to find a way to get one goal. Had a good chance at the end of the game, would have been a nice way to cap it off. The guys played hard, played the right way. We just couldn't make that one play to get the goal."
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