A timeout from hockey didn’t slow down the Wild.
Instead, it only seemed to rejuvenate the players.
In the first game back after taking a mandatory five-day break, the Wild shrugged off the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 Saturday night in front of an announced 19,007 at Xcel Energy Center, extending the team’s point streak to five games.
“As much as the break was nice to refresh, you’re sitting there watching teams collect points,” center Matt Cullen said. “So we want to hit the ground running and understand that we need to get as many points as possible.”
By continuing its torrid run on home ice, which stands at 13-1-3, the team also sealed Tampa Bay’s first three-game losing streak of the season — a feat that made the Wild’s return even more impressive.
A dozen Wild players recorded at least one point, with Eric Staal leading the way with a pair of assists, Zach Parise burying his first goal of the season after missing most of the first half because of a herniated disk and subsequent back surgery and goalie Devan Dubnyk even setting up a Jason Zucker empty-netter with 59 seconds to go.
“We were pretty well-prepared,” Parise said.
After Tyler Ennis was crushed by a neutral-zone check from Ryan Callahan early in the first period, defenseman Nate Prosser was hit with four minutes of roughing penalties for challenging Callahan — a confrontation that appeared to enhance the Wild’s early burst of energy.
Ennis missed the remainder of the first period, as the winger went through concussion protocol, but he returned for the second.
“That was a great penalty to stand up for your guy,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think the team appreciated it, and it got the crowd into it even more so than they were. I just thought it kept our adrenaline going.”
The Wild went on to open the scoring only 2 seconds into a power play when defenseman Jared Spurgeon walked into a faceoff win by Staal 10 minutes, 7 seconds into the game.
Later in the first period, the Wild scored another after a seeing-eye shot from defenseman Ryan Suter found its way behind Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy at 17:24 amid heavy traffic in front.
The Lightning challenged the goal to determine if there was goaltender interference on the play, but the goal stood — although credit was shifted to Parise, who tipped the puck in for his first goal since Game 2 of the playoff series against the Blues on April 14.
“It’s always nice to get rewarded,” Parise said.
The Wild didn’t let up in the second, tacking on another insurance marker as the natives continued to contribute on Hockey Day Minnesota.
Prosser, who is from Elk River, sneaked a shot in between the post and Vasilevskiy’s left arm at 7:11, and winger Kyle Rau — the former Gophers captain hailing from Eden Prairie — assisted on the goal in his Wild debut.
Tampa Bay finally started to pick up the pace late in the second, as center Brayden Point’s shot up the middle scooted by Dubnyk at 15:35.
A one-timer from winger Marcus Foligno 3:10 into the third reinstated the Wild’s three-goal lead. With an assist on the play, Cullen notched his 700th career point.
But the Lightning didn’t fade, capitalizing on a 5-on-3 goal from Point at 6:37 after the Wild unsuccessfully challenged for goalie interference. Tampa Bay finished 1-for-4 with the man advantage, while the Wild went 1-for-3.
The Lightning wouldn’t get any closer, with Dubnyk steady the rest of the way. He racked up 21 saves; Vasilevskiy finished with 30.
“We come out of the break on the outside looking in,” Cullen said. “So we can’t waste any time.”