TAMPA — The strategy would be unconventional, but perhaps pulling the goaltender for an extra forward in the first period would translate the Wild's late-game prowess earlier into the action so the team wouldn't be chasing a comeback in the third.
"I'll ask our analytics [guru] Mat Sells if that's feasible," coach Dean Evason quipped. "I don't know if he has any numbers on that."
Fact is the Wild thrives in desperation mode, a knack that was on display over the weekend during the first two stops on its three-game road trip.
While the team failed to complete the rally on Saturday at Florida, the Wild took one step further the next day against the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Lightning and picked up a point for its effort in a 5-4 shootout loss in front of 19,092 at Amalie Arena that was the first extra-time game the team dropped this season.
"We hate doing what we keep doing, but we love what we keep doing," Evason said. "We don't want to do it, but we love the resilience. We don't quit."
Down by two goals in the third, the Wild scored twice with goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen on the bench to force overtime: Kevin Fiala converted on a one-timer at 17 minutes, 12 seconds before Joel Eriksson Ek stuffed in a puck in tight with 39 seconds to go.
That was the seventh goal the Wild has scored in the last minute of regulation and the seventh 6-on-5 goal by the team. Both pace the NHL.
A day earlier, the Wild racked up a pair of last-minute, 6-on-5 goals before narrowly falling 5-4 to the NHL-leading Panthers.
"We are a team that doesn't quit and keeps coming back no matter what the score is," Marcus Foligno said.
After a scoreless overtime that included a Wild power play, only Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos scored in a shootout. Mats Zuccarello, Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov were stopped by the Lightning's Brian Elliott, who racked up 28 saves. Kahkonen had 20 in his fourth start.
But the push to get to that point was impressive.
"We got skill. We see it every day in practice," said Matt Dumba, who was on the ice for Eriksson Ek's tying goal. "We've got guys who are selfless and are going to make plays, and we're all pulling for each other. Just a belief in each other and what we're trying to accomplish."
As is usually the case with these frenzied finishes, the Wild trailed early.
Anthony Cirelli deflected in a Victor Hedman point shot on the power play 1:06 into the first period before Pat Maroon capitalized on a rising backhander at 11:14.
Before the first ended, the Wild got one goal back on the power play when Foligno tipped in a Dumba shot at 14:40. Both teams went 1-for-4 on the power play.
In the second, the Wild took over possession and was rewarded with the equalizer — a one-timer from Brandon Duhaime at 3:56.
This was only the third time in franchise history the Wild has erased multiple multi-goal deficits in the same game.
"We had control of the game," Evason said. "It was like, 'OK, this is phenomenal. We're playing against the Stanley Cup champs, and we're controlling the game.' I guess that's why they're Stanley Cup champs. They just kept coming, too."
Cirelli's second goal of the game regained the lead for the Lightning with 2:53 left in the second, and then Alex Barre-Boulet supplied an insurance marker 9:19 into the third.
No problem for the Wild.
Kahkonen went to the bench with 5:02 to go, this after the Wild pulled Cam Talbot with 5:09 left vs. Florida, and Fiala and Eriksson Ek delivered; Eriksson Ek's finish was the second he's scored in the last minute of regulation this season.
The momentum from those goals didn't push the Wild past the Lightning, but it proved the team's moxie.
And if that tenacity starts to arrive earlier, the Wild could become even tougher to handle.
"Clearly, we want to play with a lead and we want to play right," Evason said. "But we have to learn how to do that, and we will. But in the meantime, we were pretty excited about how hard we pushed to come back for each other."