The Wild played big-boy hockey Wednesday night. Tough, gritty, in-your-face, relentless, smart hockey.
It defended every inch of ice. Fought like crazy for every loose puck. Gave every ounce of competitive battle they could muster. Even knocked an opponent face-first through the glass. No, serious. That really happened.
If you ever want to see what a team that doesn't want its season to end looks like, watch the replay of the Wild's 3-0 win over Vegas in Game 6.
That was sheer determination on display.
"When it comes down to a big period, a big game, we always find a way," goalie Cam Talbot said. "That's what I love about this group."
Now on to Game 7.
Who would have guessed it?
The season hanging by the thinnest of threads only a few days ago, the Wild remains very much alive.
The Golden Knights have home ice. The Wild has momentum. And belief.
Unlike Game 5, the Wild didn't stave off elimination by relying on rope-a-dope hockey. Game 6 brought something entirely different. The Wild stood nose-to-nose with Vegas and pushed back.
Smothering defense. Tight checking. Huge saves by Talbot. And a barrage of goals in the third period. Just a mature performance by a team that started the season with meager outside expectations but has been resilient and unflappable all the way through to this win-or-else moment.
Nothing came easy for either team in Game 6. The flow looked like a bumper car ride at an amusement park. A mess of deflected pucks and bodies smashing into each other.
Every time the Wild and Knights attempted a pass in the first two periods, an opponent's stick choked off the passing lane and the puck went the other way.
When a player managed to find room to shoot, someone slid into position for a block. Multiple players hobbled to the bench after being drilled in the legs with a slap shot. Wild captain Jared Spurgeon threw himself to the ice to block one shot as if diving to protect something valuable that fell out of his hands.
The ice always shrinks in the playoffs, but things were so tight that players probably felt claustrophobic.
On top of that, the referees are letting players bang and mug each other in this series to that point that the action is clogged up like a toilet with bad pipes.
Rather than complain about the rough stuff, Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov gave a defiant answer pregame when asked how he avoids becoming frustrated.
"The simple answer: That's hockey," he said. "It's part of the game, you just gotta kind of play through it."
The Wild more than played through it in Game 6. They kept pushing back.
The intensity went to level 10 with a sequence in the second period that brought Xcel Energy Center to full roar.
Wild bruiser Marcus Foligno hit Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud with such force along the boards that Whitecloud's face dislodged the glass from the boards, nearly catapulting him into the front row.
Thankfully, Whitecloud wasn't injured, the glass was repaired quickly and it was Game On.
Moments later, the Wild's Matt Dumba unloaded on Alex Tuch in open ice — a clean but jarring hit — that caused Vegas' Alec Martinez to make a beeline for Dumba to fight.
Dumba obliged, wrestling Martinez to the ice. Once separated, Dumba skated to the penalty box waving his arms to fire up the crowd even more.
"That's just the pressure that we have to play with, the aggressiveness, the desperation," Foligno said.
"And Dumbs obviously firing up the crowd and firing us up, even though we didn't score in that period, it just felt like the momentum was in our favor."
They have a lot of it heading back to Vegas. The Wild looked defeated after falling into a 3-1 hole. Everything feels different now.
The Wild still has plenty of fight left.