As they have all season, the Wild stumbled when vying to win three games in a row.
But in their latest bid, they recovered in time to finally clear that hurdle.
After two blah periods, the Wild needed a late lift from Kirill Kaprizov to extend the action before shrugging off the Ducks 5-4 in a four-round shootout on Saturday afternoon in front of 17,822 at Xcel Energy Center to close out their seven-game homestand (5-2) with a season-high third straight victory.
“In the third period we realized, ‘Well, maybe we should play the right way,'” said coach Dean Evason, calling the result a wakeup call. “We were able to come back, and we’re very fortunate that the game wasn’t out of hand by the time we got to the third period.”
Instead, the Wild were down only a goal and they erased that deficit 5 minutes, 26 seconds into the third when Joel Eriksson Ek backhanded in a rebound on the power play.
By 10:36 Anaheim responded, with Troy Terry delivering his own power-play tally to put the Wild in jeopardy of whiffing on a three-game win streak for the fifth time.
Then Kaprizov intervened.
With his career-best point streak on the line, Kaprizov one-timed in a tape-to-tape feed from linemate Mats Zuccarello with 2:35 to go in regulation to push his run to 11 games. Only Mikael Granlund and Kevin Fiala (12 games) have longer point streaks in Wild history.
“He just took over there the last 10 minutes,” captain Jared Spurgeon said of Kaprizov, whose franchise record assist streak ended at nine games. “Every shift he was on, he created some sort of opportunity whether it was for himself or his teammates. That’s the type of player he is.”
In the shootout, Kaprizov improved to 3-for-3 this season and 5-for-10 in his career.
He and the Ducks’ Trevor Zegras had the only successful attempts through three rounds, setting up a fourth head-to-head battle that saw Matt Boldy score for the first time in the NHL during his second shootout nod and Filip Gustavsson deny Ryan Strome to complete the Wild’s comeback.
Gustavsson picked up 29 saves and at the other end, John Gibson had 45 off 49 shots from the Wild, which tied the franchise record and are the most ever in a home game.
Before this, Anaheim blanked on a 4-on-3 power play in overtime and Spurgeon sprawled out to swipe the puck away from Terry on a breakaway after a ferocious backcheck.
“That was big,” Jordan Greenway said. “It changed the entire outcome maybe.”
Early on, it was the Ducks who were chasing the Wild despite playing a more eager pace.
After a Calen Addison shot bounced into the net off Anaheim’s Max Jones 4:37 into the first period, Strome answered with a deflection just 3:36 later. Connor Dewar retook the lead for the Wild, burying a loose puck off a Ryan Reaves rebound with 4:56 left in the first for a goal that sealed Reaves’ first point with the team since a Nov. 23 trade from the Rangers. But Cam Fowler potted the equalizer on the power play 10:43 into the second.
Then during a delayed Wild penalty, Zegras converted with 1 minute left in the period.
“They went to the net,” Evason said. “They played hard. Their three goals in two periods were tips, were screens at the net. They did exactly what we want to do. We played a perimeter game not willing to get to that area, and we almost got hurt by it. “
The Wild have won 12 in a row against the Ducks, their longest win streak against an opponent in team history, and they are 5-0-1 in their past six games with a challenging four-game road trip on deck.
“We’ve been talking about trying to get some momentum, string some games together, and we’ve been able to do that as of late,” Greenway said. “It’s good. Great momentum going into a road trip. We should have confidence.”