Verbal jabs were getting tossed across the red line after both teams spilled onto the ice for the pregame warm-up, and it wasn't long before the barbs turned physical.
Three fights, one bloody nose and a handful of post-whistle conferences later, the Wild and Flames settled into a different type of slugfest after addressing the loose ends from their previous meeting.
And with more men available to assist, Calgary ultimately won the tug-of-war 2-1 Saturday in front of an announced 18,882 at Xcel Energy Center — a tough finish for a Wild squad that skated valiantly despite not being at full strength.
"Those are games you want to win," goalie Devan Dubnyk said. "They obviously feel a lot better when you do, especially the way guys worked and battled. You just see everybody sticking up for each other. Guys are working, getting more ice time than they're used to. Everybody's stepping up."
The Wild played most of the game without defenseman Matt Dumba, who did not emerge for the second and third periods.
Bruce Boudreau wasn't sure what happened to Dumba, and he didn't have an update on his status after the game. "All I know is we'll have a better idea on Monday," the Wild coach said.
The Wild was already without captain Mikko Koivu, who appears to be nearing a return from a lower-body injury when this four-game homestand wraps up Tuesday, and winger Jason Zucker was scratched because of illness.
Dumba still left an impression on the game during his abbreviated ice time; only 40 seconds into the first period, he was challenged to a fight by Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk — retribution by Tkachuk for Dumba's hit on Calgary center Mikael Backlund, who suffered a concussion from the contact and hasn't suited up since that 2-0 Wild loss Dec. 6 in Calgary.
Koivu was the other injured party in that game, getting sidelined after he was kneed by Flames captain Mark Giordano, and Giordano also had to answer for his hit since he was accosted later in the period by Wild veteran Matt Hendricks.
"It was a dirty hit in my opinion on Mikko," Hendricks said. "Gio knows how to play the game, for sure. He's old school. I don't think he was happy with that play, either. He right away said, 'Absolutely.' "
Giordano had already delivered a blow to the Wild, scoring a shorthanded goal 12 minutes, 3 seconds into the period, which ended after one more bout — this one between defenseman Ryan Suter and winger Sam Bennett, only the third fight of Suter's career and first since Feb. 18, 2009.
Suter, who was bleeding from his nose after the tussle and ended up logging a season-high 29:49, was unavailable for comment after the game.
Overall, 13 penalties were issued; neither the Wild (0-for-4) nor Flames (0-for-3) capitalized on the power play.
One of the Wild's penalty kills early in the second acted as a momentum boost because the team responded with the tying goal — a rising shot from rookie Jordan Greenway from the right faceoff circle at 3:30 amid a promotion to the top six.
A mostly even pace ensued, with the Flames eventually breaking the chess match at 8:45 of the third when Tkachuk sent a shot far-side over Dubnyk's stick. Dubnyk finished with 24 saves, while Calgary's David Rittich had 34.
"It was a good hockey game," Boudreau said. "It was just who was going to get the better opportunity in the third period and once they did, they played pretty well defensively."