On blaze orange hunting hat night, the Wild’s aim was precise and deadly.
At one point in the second period of Saturday’s 7-2 shellacking of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Wild had six goals on 12 shots.
The Wild’s flirtation with 50 percent shooting of course didn’t last, but the Wild completed a 2-for-2 home- stand in rousing fashion as an announced 18,884 patrons watched one of the most balanced attacks in team history.
Six even-strength goals came from four forwards and two defensemen.
“Good teams have three lines that can score. Right now we have four that can really generate,” said Thomas Vanek, who assisted on two goals. “It showed tonight. Once you get to Game 50 and 60, that’s when it’s important that you have the depth that we have.
“And our D is great. I’ve never seen a group like this that gap up as well as they do.”
The Wild can defend with the best, and Saturday it led to heaps of odd-man rushes. The Wild scored more goals Saturday than it has given up in six games this season (six). It has allowed the NHL’s fewest goals (1.0) and shots per game (22.2).
With the banged-up Lightning eager to return to balmy Florida following a five-game road trip, coach Jon Cooper likely will burn the video, particularly the lowlights of drowsy backup Evgeni Nabokov, the former San Jose Sharks No. 1 who used to roast the Wild for fun.
Nabokov, whose 16 wins against the Wild rank third in history, was chased 17 minutes, 15 seconds in. The Wild (4-2) beat him for a team-record four first-period goals on eight shots, getting a goal from all four lines. Defensively, the Wild allowed 19 shots, none in the first 11 minutes and only two to superstar Steven Stamkos.
“It was by committee,” coach Mike Yeo said.
The Wild got two goals from Jason Zucker, who despite playing the fourth line leads the team with four goals, and one each from defense partners Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon and forwards Mikko Koivu, Erik Haula and Zach Parise.
Scandella, who got into his second career fight with Brian Boyle, completed the “Gordie Howe hat trick” in the third when he assisted on Zucker’s shorthanded breakaway.
“We know that we’re a deep team,” Zucker said. “We’re four lines deep.”
Besides Vanek, Zucker and Scandella, Parise and Jason Pominville each had two points. Thirteen Wild skaters got at least one point and 14 were plus-1 or better. Ryan Suter was plus-4 and Jonas Brodin plus-3.
“[Our defensemen] carried us [Thursday against Arizona], so for them to have a night like this, I was pleased,” Yeo said.
Darcy Kuemper, who entered with three shutouts in four starts, made 17 saves to improve to 4-1 and now has allowed four goals in five starts.
The shindig began with two goals in 39 seconds from Scandella and Koivu. Scandella took Pominville’s blue-line exchange and flew into the zone like a forward, wheeling around Matt Carle before scoring his eighth career goal. On the ensuing shift, Andrej Sustr, a minus-4, coughed up the puck to Vanek, who found Koivu. The captain drew in the puck beat Nabokov from a bad angle for his first point this season.
“It’s more fun to be scoring than not,” Koivu said.
Anton Stralman scored the first goal against the Wild at home in 131 minutes, 4 seconds this season, but 97 seconds later, Suter sent Haula into the zone with speed. Haula brushed off a big check by Eric Brewer, skated between the circles and buried Nino Niederreiter’s pass for the eventual winner.
Late in the period, Zucker ended Nabokov’s night with a terrible goal. With Ben Bishop in, Parise made it 5-1 early in the second before Spurgeon tapped in a layup pass from Vanek.
“It was important to get contributions from everyone,” Parise said. “To get every line feeling good, every line getting some touches, that goes a long way for our team and just player’s confidence.”