ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Defining moments can never come too early, especially if it's 10 days into a brand-new season.
Six months ago, the Anaheim Ducks began their march to the Stanley Cup championship by swiftly doing away with the Wild. Six months from now, if the Wild's prepping for its third postseason trip, it might flash back to Oct. 14 as the night it made a thunderous statement -- not only to the NHL but to itself.
Playing its second game in less than 24 hours, the Wild set a physical tone early and departed the Honda Center with a resolute 2-0 victory in one of the gutsiest performances conceivable to remain as the NHL's only undefeated team (5-0).
"It was a nice, gritty win," said Brian Rolston, whose first goal of the season acted as the winner. "It's something that our team needs throughout the whole season. Every other aspect, we look pretty good as a team. What we need to find is that team toughness, and we found it tonight."
Josh Harding, still a rookie at age 23, made a staggering 33 of his 37 saves in the first two periods for his third career shutout, Mark Parrish also scored his first goal and, much to the pleasure of every Wild fan back in Minnesota, Derek Boogaard got his opportunity to square off with Public Enemy No. 1, Brad May.
"Just by him fighting, he knows he made a mistake last year, and you have to respect that," said Boogaard, referring to the Ducks bruiser's sucker-punch that left Kim Johnsson concussed in last year's playoffs.
On this night, it was Todd Bertuzzi, not exactly beloved by Wild fans either, who left concussed courtesy of a hard, clean Boogaard check.
This was a true character win with the tone being set on the very first shift when Wes Walz dumped Travis Moen by the Wild box. Minutes later, Nick Schultz, who would later fight Ryan Getzlaf, creamed Corey Perry.
"Everyone battled for the guy next to him," Parrish said.
The game was won by the Wild's penalty kill, above all Harding, who in his season debut had to overcome eight Anaheim power plays totaling nearly 13 minutes, including two 5-on-3's and a 4-on-3.
"Hards was our first star tonight," Rolston said.
Harding admitted he was shaking in his skates early, but that scattered the second he made his first save. In a scoreless first period, he made 14 saves, including two Chris Pronger blasts, a Perry redirection, a Bertuzzi breakaway and a Todd Marchant rebound afterward.
But the Wild kept pressuring.
"It seemed like a playoff game out there the way we battled," Harding said.
Harding supplied enough of a cushion for Rolston to give the Wild a 1-0 lead with a scorching slapshot over the glove of Wild killer Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who was making his season debut after offseason abdominal surgery.
In the second period, three minutes after the Wild killed off another 5-on-3, Parrish completed a wonderful-looking tic-tac-toe with linemates Mikko Koivu and Branko Radivojevic.
"It's nice to be on the tail end of those kind of plays. I had the easy part," Parrish said.
At the time Parrish made it 2-0, the Wild was being outshot 29-12, but "Harding was just fabulous," coach Jacques Lemaire said.