SEATTLE – Two wins and two losses are average by definition but in the Wild's case, two wins and two losses felt like a passing grade.
At the end of a four-game, six-day road trip that switched time zones at each stop and playing without their top defenseman, the Wild dismissed the Seattle Kraken 3-0 on Sunday night at Climate Pledge Arena to earn a hard-fought split.
Next up is a well-timed break, with the Wild's next game not until Thursday vs. Calgary at Xcel Energy Center.
"We're feeling good going back home," Zach Bogosian said. "Obviously, that's a huge way to end the road trip."
Filip Gustavsson racked up 24 saves for his second shutout of the season and first since the season opener, while Matt Boldy scored his sixth goal in seven games, Marco Rossi his ninth and Joel Eriksson Ek his team-leading 14th.
Overall, the Wild improved to 5-2 since John Hynes stepped behind the bench to sit four points back of the playoff cutline in the Western Conference.
"You're always happy with .500 on the road," Gustavsson said.
Although Seattle is sputtering — the Kraken have dropped eight in a row — and was finishing up two games in two nights, this wasn't a slam-dunk victory for the Wild.
They began the trip with a convincing victory vs. Calgary but were coming off back-to-back losses to Vancouver and Edmonton, the latter a double whammy since that's when Jonas Brodin was injured. The defenseman is out week-to-week because of an upper-body injury and in his absence, the Wild promoted Alex Goligoski from a healthy scratch and Bogosian returned from his own upper-body injury.
"He's a huge key and part of our team," said Bogosian, whose 18 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time, four hits and three blocked shots helped solidify the defense. "We have to collectively as a group make that step forward, and everyone's got to step up."
This new look coincided with a tweak up front; the Wild separated Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, and the revised top line delivered quickly.
Kaprizov handed off the puck to Boldy, who drove to the middle before deking around Seattle goalie Joey Daccord 7:14 into the first period.
Boldy finished the trip with four goals and two assists, and the seven games he's played since Hynes' arrival is his best stretch of the season with eight points. Daccord finished with 23 saves.
"Losing two in a row, just a different look sometimes is nice," Boldy said. "That's what's so good about our team: Guys can play in so many different roles and still be productive and helpful to our team."
Before the first ended, the Kraken did manage to get one puck behind Gustavsson, but the goal was waved off because Seattle poked the puck in after Gustavsson covered it up and the whistle went.
The period was also a boon for the Wild penalty kill, which survived two Seattle power plays and then later denied a third chance for the Kraken early in the third.
This was a perfect bounce-back effort by the PK, which surrendered the game-tying goal and the game-winner to the Oilers on Friday in that 4-3 loss. Over the past seven games, the last-place Wild penalty kill is 20-for-23.
As for the power play, the Wild had one look in the second and another in the third and blanked on both opportunities.
Not until 7:26 remained in the third did the Wild finally double their lead when Rossi buried a Seattle turnover forced by Zuccarello. Eriksson Ek added an empty-netter with four seconds to go.
"We were pretty tight 5-on-5," Hynes said. "We didn't give up odd-man rushes. I thought we played a tight, direct, strong team game."
That stingy style by the skaters was mirrored in net by Gustavsson.
He had seven of his stops while the Wild were shorthanded, and the netminder's positioning enabled him to make many routine saves.
"It feels like I find a way to be there in time and when I'm there in time, I usually see the puck and then I make the stop," said Gustavsson, who picked up his fourth win in his last five starts.
Through those five appearances, Gustavsson has fended off 116 of 122 shots while giving up two goals or fewer each time.
After getting pulled in the first period Nov. 4 against the Rangers (three goals on four shots), Gustavsson hasn't allowed more than three goals in nine starts; in four of those games, he's been tagged for one goal or less.
And the Wild's next opponent is the team Gustavsson's had the most success against: He's 4-0-1 with a sharp .964 save percentage against the Flames, whom the Wild defeated to kick off this trek.
"Long road trip," Boldy said. "Last one. It's easy to let it get away from you, but I thought we played really well and obviously Gus was great back there, too."