ANAHEIM, Calif. – One team was crisper, faster and stronger on the puck.
And it wasn’t the squad that was rested.
As has been the trend this season, the Wild had plenty left in the tank to crank out a solid effort in its second game in as many nights — this time shrugging off the Anaheim Ducks in a 5-1 victory Friday night in front of an announced 16,464 at Honda Center.
The Wild pocketed its ninth victory in its past 11 games and improved to 4-0 in the second half of back-to-backs.
“To see that in a group this early says a ton about what we have in here,” goalie Alex Stalock said.
Stalock was triumphant for the third time as the closer in the two-game, two-day set, making 20 saves, and Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund each racked up three points, with Granlund scoring twice.
Defensemen Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon also had two-point showings.
“We’re getting better and better every game,” Brodin said of his partnership with Spurgeon.
The Wild was ready to go from puck drop and opened the scoring for just the fifth time this season.
Only 1 minute, 48 seconds in, rookie Jordan Greenway eluded a poke check by Anaheim goalie John Gibson and banked the puck off the toe of Gibson’s skate — which was in the net. It was Greenway’s second career goal.
A double-minor, high-sticking penalty to Anaheim’s Patrick Eaves later in the period didn’t result in any goals for the Wild, but the team dominated possession — hemming the Ducks in their zone for almost the first two minutes of the advantage. Overall, the Wild went 0-for-4 on the power play.
Still, that opportunity helped the Wild pad its shots edge, and when the first period expired, the team was outshooting the Ducks 19-5. Those 19 shots were the most for a first period this season for the Wild and the second most for any period.
“We came out and sort of took a little of their spirit away,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Staying in character, the Wild only got better as the game went on, with the team adding two more goals in the second period courtesy the Zucker-Granlund combination.
Zucker was the first to deliver, at 3:19, when he one-timed a behind-the-net feed from Granlund. That ended a seven-game goalless skid for Zucker, his second goal in his past 12 games.
“All I try to do is get to some sort of open space, and he’s going to get the puck there at some point,” Zucker said of Granlund.
And just 3:58 after that, the two connected again, just by switching roles, with Zucker setting up Granlund from behind the net for a tap-in in front.
“It’s one of those games that we found a lot of space,” Granlund said.
The Ducks’ only goal on Stalock came on the power play at the 16:53 mark of the second period, on a Pontus Aberg top-shelf shot. Anaheim still had some jump to start the third, but Brodin reinstated the Wild’s three-goal cushion with a blistering shot during a poor Ducks line change at 10:06.
And with 3:57 to go, Granlund scored for the second time — off another one-timer from Zucker.
Gibson had 38 stops for the Ducks, who were outshot 43-21.
“When everybody’s happy and the players are happy and they’re winning,” Boudreau said, “it’s a good feeling.”