LAS VEGAS – Joel Eriksson Ek declined the player of the game bucket hat the Wild hands out after each win on Thursday, giving it back to Cam Talbot after the goalie tried to recognize Eriksson Ek.
But Eriksson Ek held onto the memento on Saturday night.
After setting up the tying goal, Eriksson Ek scored two shifts later to complete the Wild's 2-1 victory over the Golden Knights in front of an announced 3,950 at T-Mobile Arena — busting open a tight-checking slugfest to help the Wild sweep two games over Vegas and finish the road trip a respectable 2-1-1.
"I told him it wasn't coming back to me," Talbot said. "He had to keep it this time, so he definitely earned it again tonight that's for sure."
In the midst of the best offensive season of his NHL career, Eriksson Ek added another highlight when he put the Wild's rally in motion in the third period.
He sent the puck to a wide-open Kirill Kaprizov for the redirect behind Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on the power play at 6 minutes, 13 seconds.
"Kirill was slapping his stick on the ice on the other side of the net," Eriksson Ek said. "I was just trying to get it over there."
Just 55 seconds later, Eriksson Ek put back his own rebound to put the Wild ahead.
This was Eriksson Ek's fifth multipoint game of the season, and eight of his career-high 12 goals — which rank second on the team behind only Kaprizov (14) — have come in the third period, which is tied for the second-most in the NHL.
"It's just a broken play and just tried to stay with it," Eriksson Ek said, "and lucky it went in."
Although he didn't factor into any of the offense in Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory over Vegas, Eriksson Ek was still valuable for the Wild.
Talbot thought Eriksson Ek set the tone for the team, and that's why he wanted to reward Eriksson Ek with the bucket hat he'd had since the Wild's previous victory (2-0 over St. Louis on March 25). But since Talbot was excellent and the reason the Wild prevailed, Eriksson Ek felt Talbot should hold onto the hat.
That effort against Vegas seemed like the perfect palette cleanser for the Wild after an underwhelming start to the week at San Jose, but the Wild fell behind early and struggled to find equilibrium.
At 5:33 of the third, Tomas Nosek lifted a backhander by Talbot after a dump-in bounced into the middle.
What looked like the Wild's best chance to finally turn the tide was a power play late in the second, but an interference call against Kaprizov negated the opportunity after only four seconds.
But the Wild wasn't deterred and applied even more pressure in the third to finally get to Fleury, who made 25 saves while Talbot had 27.
"Fleury made some big saves in the first and second there to keep them ahead," Talbot said. "We stuck with it in the third period, and that's just a big character win and two big wins coming into this building."
The power-play goal was the Wild's seventh with the man advantage over the team's past 13 games and sixth point for Kaprizov in his past six games.
"At the start, we were able to win without power-play goals," Eriksson Ek said. "But you're going to need it down the stretch."
Kaprizov extended his goal streak to three games, which ties Mats Zuccarello for the longest this season. He also ties Pascal Dupuis (2001-02) and Marian Gaborik (2000-01) for longest goal streak by a Wild rookie.
Soon after, Eriksson Ek sealed a victory in which he couldn't turn down the postgame spotlight.
"For him to come out and have another big game like he did last game when I tried to give him the bucket," Talbot said, "to replicate that game and actually [get] even better says a lot about him and just his work ethic and his commitment to this team."