Marcus Johansson had settled under the radar since his first goal of the season in Game No.2 sealed another comeback overtime victory for the Wild in Los Angeles.
But in the latest chapter of the Wild vs. Kings, he resurfaced in a major way.
Not only did Johansson's contribute to a three-goal outburst in the first period, but he rediscovered his chemistry with Kirill Kaprizov in a slump-busting, 5-3 win Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
"He skated, really pushed the pace tonight," coach Dean Evason said. "Clearly, he's a wonderful skater but he hadn't pushed it like he did tonight. He had another gear. He's got a fast gear anyway, but he stepped it up and it was great for him to be rewarded with that one first and then what a great play obviously to Kirill. Yeah, he was real good all night."
Johansson was held pointless in the five contests since his game-winner on Jan.16; what's more, he was caught reaching on the decisive goal Tuesday in the Kings' 2-1 win that dealt the Wild a second straight loss. Johansson also botched a 4-on-1 rush for the Wild early Thursday.
Seconds later, though, he opened the scoring with a shot from the point and before the period ended, he fed Kaprizov for a score that put the Wild up 3-0. Kaprizov's goal was his first since his overtime finish in the season opener, and his seven points are tied with center Joel Eriksson Ek for the most on the team. Eriksson Ek joined the Johansson-Kaprizov duo, one of a few lineup changes the Wild made before Thursday's puck drop.
"It feels like we're finding each other out there," said Johansson about Kaprizov. "I don't know if it's kind of the European type of hockey. It's been fun playing with him. I think we felt like we only played one period together today because of the penalties and [Kevin Fiala] leaving the game. It was fun. We had some chances to score a couple more and hopefully we'll get those next time."
The loss wasn't the only tough outcome for the Kings.
They lost a pair of defensemen during the game, with Matt Roy leaving in the second period after he was checked from behind into the boards by Fiala. Not only did Fiala receive a 5-minute boarding major, but he was also slapped with a game misconduct.
And then in the third period, Sean Walker went down after taking a Matt Dumba shot to the face – leaving a trail of blood on the ice as he made his way to the bench.
"I feel so bad about it," Dumba said. "It's got to be one of the worst shots I've taken in my career. I feel so bad. I gotta go apologize."
Kings coach Todd McLellan said after the game both players were getting evaluated by doctors and he thought they'd be able to accompany the team back to Los Angeles.
"Two very unfortunate incidents in the game," McLellan said. "Not something we want to see in the game at all. I think they're going to be OK eventually."
During the extended power play that came after Fiala's boarding penalty, the Kings scored twice to pull within a goal of the Wild.
But the Wild pushed back on a goal from center Nick Bjugstad to take a two-goal cushion into the intermission. Bjugstad's goal came after he was penalized for a faceoff violation, the second time this season he's scored after a brush with adversity.
His first tally on Sunday against San Jose came on the heels of having a goal disallowed.
"He's one of the guys that's always around the net, just getting to the net," Evason said. "He's great at tipping, obviously scored a couple tip goals. He's such a big body that if he's committed to get there then good things are going to happen."
The Wild will be off Friday, but the team could possibly get goalie Cam Talbot back for its weekend series vs. Colorado.
Regardless, Kaapo Kahkonen has done an admirable job stepping in for Talbot while he deals with a lower-body injury.
Since taking over for Talbot, Kahkonen has stopped 99 of 108 shots.
"He's made timely saves for us where the game can go sideways at different points and could've gone sideways here tonight after they made it 3-2," Evason said. "He's able to come up with a couple of real big saves."