You’d never know the Wild won Thursday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks. Not with how disappointed coach Dean Evason sounded afterward.
As far as he was concerned, aside from banking a much-needed two points, there was no reason for the Wild to feel good about themselves afterward. The Wild got out to an early but let the Ducks right back into it with some putrid play down the stretch.
“It was a grind,” Evason said about the ugly 3-1 win. “We have to do some things to make a game like that a little easier on us. We don’t mind grinding it out. We don’t mind doing those things to get a win. We just shouldn’t have had to in that game.”
That message seemed to hit home as the Wild looked much more focused in Saturday’s rematch. They once again got out to an early lead, wand while there was a brief stretch where the Wild slowed down, they ultimately were able to keep their foot on the gas and coast to an impressive 5-1 win.
“For a few minutes we didn’t do it and we were able to catch it,” Evason said. “It wasn’t the coaching staff that caught it. It was the team that caught it. When we can listen to the team talking about the right things to do and how they believe we need to play to have success, that’s when it’s exciting for us as a coaching staff.”
Kevin Fiala led the way with a pair of goals, Mats Zuccarello, Victor Rask and Joel Eriksson Ek chipped in with a goal apiece, and Kaapo Kahkonen added 26 saves to record the win.
“It was a good game,” Zuccarello said. “I think everyone is real happy. That’s two in a row. You can’t complain about that.”
Kirill Kaprizov also added a couple of assists in the game and now leads all rookies with 11 points. He also set a new franchise record for points by a rookie in the opening 20 games of his career.
“There was a lot of talk about how he was going to come in and how he was going to play,” Evason said. “He certainly has not disappointed. He’s a wonderful teammate and he works every night. He obviously has a skills et that will allow him to produce offensively.”
Everyone on the Wild produce offensively on this particular in night.
After recently earning a promotion in the Wild lineup, Zuccarello made it 1-0 late in the first period with a top-shelf snipe to beat goaltender John Gibson.
That got the ball rolling, and a little more than a minute later, Fiala increased the lead to 2-0 with an incredible individual effort. He raced the length of the ice to chase down a loose puck — he topped out at 24 mph in the process — and rewarded himself by stuffing the puck past the goal line.
That score held into the second period where the Wild did the unthinkable: They actually scored on the power play. Entering the night an egregious 3 for 50 with the man advantage this season, the Wild converted as Fiala hammered home a rebound to make it 3-0.
“I felt great tonight,” Fiala said. “I felt like my game was where it’s supposed to be. Just have to try to keep going.”
That pretty much put the game away, and while the Ducks cut the deficit to 3-1 with a redirection from David Backes late in the second period, they never came close to completing the comeback.
That’s something the Wild made sure of early in the third period with a goal from Rask to make it 4-1. Eriksson Ek added another goal for good measure, finishing off a tic-tac-toe sequence to finalize the score at 5-1.
It was a huge win for the Wild as they completed the sweep of the Ducks and continued to climb in the standings in the West Division. Now they will set their sights on Monday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.
“It’s huge for this whole road trip,” Kahkonen said. “You lose the first game and want to come back and win the next game for sure. We are 2-1-0 now. It’s a good start for a trip. We want to have a strong finish here.”