A power play was impending, but the Wild was in no hurry to let the Stars touch the puck to trigger the chance.
Instead, the team played keep-away as the seconds dripped off the clock — even executing a full-line change up front before the whistle finally blew a whole minute after the Dallas penalty.
Just days earlier, those seconds couldn’t have been spent like that. They were too precious, with the Wild continually in chase mode after falling behind and lacking the offensive firepower to close the gap.
But on Saturday, the team was in complete control.
“I never felt there was a lull where we were doing the wrong things,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
After starting the week with a blowout loss, the Wild ended it with another — but this time it was the one handing out the punishment, a 7-0 thrashing of the Stars in front of an announced 18,219 at Xcel Energy Center that marked back-to-back wins for the first time since Dec. 23-27.
Not only was this the Wild’s largest margin of victory at home in franchise history, but the result also tied the biggest separation in any win the team has ever had — the Wild won 7-0 at Buffalo on Jan. 15, 2015.
“We played the right way for 60 minutes,” Boudreau said.
The symmetry in the effort was the most impressive part.
Backup goalie Alex Stalock, in his second consecutive start, was airtight — stopping all 27 shots he faced to record his second shutout of the season. And the offense was dynamic, with each goal coming from a different player and 13 overall had at least a point.
Jason Zucker was a standout with a goal and two assists, his first points since returning last Sunday from a broken leg. Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Suter, Ryan Donato and Ryan Hartman all finished with two points apiece. Donato didn’t find out he was playing until the afternoon, subbing for an ill Mikko Koivu.
The evenness in the Wild’s game even extended to the recently maligned special teams; both units were perfect, with the power play 3-for-3 (the most goals it has scored in a game this season) and the penalty kill 1-for-1.
“All those things are big,” Zucker said.
Despite a late 8 p.m. puck drop and no morning skate, the Wild was energetic from the get-go — using a physical start to dictate play.
“It was the game plan,” Boudreau said. “That’s when we play best.”
Seconds after Stalock made a clutch breakaway save on Denis Gurianov, Zuccarello set up Jared Spurgeon for a one-timer at 10 minutes, 32 seconds.
“It’s fun when it happens that way,” Stalock said.
At 16:27, Carson Soucy doubled the Wild’s lead when his wrist shot sailed by Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin.
The power play converted its first 3:38 into the second when Zucker’s centering feed caromed off the Stars’ Andrej Sekera’s stick into the net.
Only 33 seconds after that, the Wild scored its fourth on a rising backhander by Donato. That finish chased Khudobin, with Ben Bishop taking over.
Before the second ended, the Wild tacked on another goal at 19:07 when Zuccarello buried the rebound off a Zucker shot.
Both third-period goals came on the power play, with Zach Parise recording his team-high 18th and fourth in the past three games on a deflection at 13:19. The fourth line, getting a rare man-advantage look, delivered the other — a shot in tight by Hartman, the finishing touches on a week that began with a 7-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
“Everyone showed up and played the right way,” Zucker said.