Wild coaches had a choice to make.
Although the team had split up usual linemates Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello after neither had produced in recent games, the two crossed paths in the first period and reignited their chemistry on a goal.
"Do we keep that line together?" coach Dean Evason said. "Do we throw it back to where we were?"
After mulling those options at the intermission, the coaching staff arrived at a verdict: Each player would report back to his original assignment but if the opportunity presented itself, they could team up again.
And when they did, the same outcome kept happening.
In barely five minutes of playing time together, Kaprizov, Zuccarello and Victor Rask — their centerman from last season — were on the ice for three goals in an electrifying 7-2 romp of the Stars on Thursday in front of 17,088 at Xcel Energy Center that included a career-high four-point effort from Kaprizov.
"We made the decision to not keep them together on a permanent [basis] at least [Thursday]," Evason said.
Overall, the trio totaled 10 points, with Zuccarello and Rask each registering a goal and two assists in what was Rask's return to action after being a healthy scratch for four consecutive games.
As for Kaprizov, he bumped his team-leading point total up to 15 after his goal and three-assist performance, becoming only the fourth Wild player in the past 15 years to tally a four-point game at age 24 or younger.
"I just tried to play hockey," Kaprizov said in Russian through a translator. "I just tried to play my game and do the best I could every single night, and what happens, happens."
But those three weren't the only ones to contribute.
Every goal came from someone new, and 12 different players picked up at least a point — the fallout from a lineup shake-up after the offense sputtered in a 4-1 loss to the Sharks on Tuesday. The seven goals were a season high from the Wild, and only one team in the NHL (Columbus) has scored more this season.
"Sometimes it just feels good to see different things," center Frederick Gaudreau said.
Rem Pitlick kicked off the scoring parade 9 minutes, 24 seconds into the first period before Zuccarello threaded a pass through Stars defenseman Jani Hakanpaa's legs to Kaprizov for the tap-in at 15:09.
"I don't think I've been good enough to get him the puck in good situations so far," Zuccarello said. "That's on me. But [Thursday] he found room, and he did a good job."
With 1:01 to go in the second, Ryan Hartman connected on a wraparound pass from Alex Goligoski for his team-leading eighth goal — one more than he had all last season.
The Wild's next two finishes came after the Stars spoiled goalie Cam Talbot's shutout bid on a Jacob Peterson shot from the slot at 3:50 of the third period.
But the Wild responded with not one but two goals.
Goligoski's point shot eluded Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin at 7:15 for Goligoski's first goal since joining the Wild in the offseason as a free agent, making him the 18th Minnesota-born player to score for the team.
Then, at 8:53, Kaprizov won a board battle and then flung a behind-the-back pass to Gaudreau for a one-timer.
"Even though it doesn't seem like he sees you, there's good chances that he knows where you are," Gaudreau said.
The Stars' Jamie Benn stuffed in a loose puck at 12:38 just as a Dallas power play expired; the Wild went 0-for-4 on its power plays, while the Stars were 0-for-6.
But two more Wild goals 45 seconds apart wrapped up the rout, with the Kaprizov-Rask-Zuccarello unit once again getting deployed after a Wild penalty kill.
This time, Kaprizov fed Zuccarello at 13:07 — a goal that Goligoski also assisted on for his third point of the game.
On the next shift, Rask scored on a shot that bounced off the top of Khudobin's mask before tumbling in the net at 13:52. Khudobin was pulled after that goal, exiting with 19 saves. Talbot had 36.
Evason said scrambling the lines wasn't a message to Kaprizov and Zuccarello, who hadn't combined on a goal since Nov. 10 at Arizona, but rather a message to the entire team.
But the two responded with their best games of the season.
"I definitely think it was a little bit of a signal," Kaprizov said. "I think both of us went out there and played our game, played the best we could, and it just so happened that both of us ended up getting some points together. So, it worked out."