ANAHEIM, Calif. – They thought this time might be different.
Despite struggling at nearly every pit stop they’ve made, Wild players were optimistic that getting back on the road for their longest trip to date — and doing so amid warmer weather underneath the California and Arizona sunshine — would be just the boost they needed to reverse course.
And it was in the first test of this four-game, 10-day swing.
After a scrambly start and a 25-second lapse in the second period that sunk the team into a two-goal hole, the Wild rallied for a 4-2 win over the Ducks on Tuesday in front of 15,526 at Honda Center.
It was the Wild’s spunkiest comeback of the season.
Not only did the Wild (5-9-1) stop a five-game losing streak on the road, improving to 2-8, but this was the first time the team climbed out of a two-goal deficit en route to a victory as the visitor since Jan. 3 in Toronto.
“It’s better than losing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We don’t know how the rest of the three games are going to go. We play good teams.
“But it sure gets you excited about going into the next game.”
Down 2-0 in the middle frame, the seeds of redemption were planted at 9 minutes, 34 seconds when winger Kevin Fiala cut into the deficit on a one-timer that eluded Anaheim goalie John Gibson.
Fiala’s goal was his second in as many games after he converted his first of the season Saturday.
“After the first goal [tonight],” Fiala said, “we really got going.”
Just 1:28 into the third, winger Mats Zuccarello exited the penalty box and capitalized on a breakaway.
He now has three goals in his past three games, tying his career-high goal streak.
“It’s not often stuff like that happens,” Zuccarello said. “So it was nice to get that goal.”
And at 4:37, the Wild scored its third in a row when center Eric Staal lifted in a backhand from his left knee after accepting a Jason Zucker pass.
Zuccarello also assisted on the play.
Staal extended his point streak to five games with the tally, a span in which he has six points.
“Our game got stronger as it went on,” Staal said.
The Wild was poised the rest of the way, with goalie Alex Stalock airtight, finishing with 29 saves and winger Zach Parise adding an empty-netter with 2:12 remaining in the game.
Stalock, who earned the start over struggling starter Devan Dubnyk, stopped the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell on a shot from the slot and in tight in the waning minutes of the third period.
At the other end, Gibson made 22 stops.
“My job is to step in and give the team a chance,” Stalock said.
This determined finish by the Wild was much better than its start when the team was flailing, but the Ducks’ pressure didn’t result in any offense until 1:27 of the second period.
Rakell got loose behind the Wild defense, challenged Stalock uncontested and then buried the rebound.
On the very next shift, only 25 seconds later, Jacob Larsson scored his first NHL goal with a shot from inside the blue line that sailed by traffic and past Stalock.
The Ducks nearly made it 3-for-3 on scoring chances with a close call after the ensuing faceoff but missed, a blown chance in hindsight that might been enough to shrug off the Wild for good.
But that next goal for Anaheim never happened, and the Wild started to push back — eventually getting rewarded with its first win of the season after trailing by two goals.
“We kind of got ticked off a little bit,” Stalock said, “and kind of took over the [second] period from there and essentially the game.”