Coach Dean Evason interrupted the Wild's morning skate Friday at Xcel Energy Center, gathering the group around center ice to remind his team about the pitfalls of the first home game after a long road trip.
"If coaches could figure it out, we'd know why," Evason said. "If players could figure it out, it would never happen."
His solution for the Wild was for players to arrive at the rink ready to play – not after the warm-up skate or following the first period, but when they reported for duty.
And the pep talk worked, because the Wild scored all the offense it needed (and more) in a dominant first period en route to a no-nonsense 3-1 win over the Kings to push its win streak to a season-long five games.
"Sometimes you need a little wakeup call in the morning," winger Nick Bjugstad said. "You get a long flight. You get in late, and you're playing the next day. Sometimes you're not going to have your legs and especially in pregame skate. So, I look at that as a good thing that happened this morning.
"We all took the message from Deaner and I think the legs were there tonight, thankfully. It was a good all-around win, and we're back at it again tomorrow night."
The first period was one of the best the Wild has had this season, with the team using a three-goal outburst on three shots in 3 minutes, 3 seconds to essentially seal the victory.
It was exactly the kind of start the team needed to ward off any potential setbacks in its return home, and it also ended up being just the antidote to stymie the Kings – who were rolling on a six-game win streak.
"They're a good team that locks it down when they get the first goal," goalie Cam Talbot said. "So, we wanted to put an emphasis on that and be ready to start when the puck was dropped. And give the guys a lot of credit; they came out and did just that."
Talbot finished with 27 saves in his first game since Feb.2 after being on the NHL's COVID list.
"I was able to make a few saves early, get myself into it, and guys did a great job of locking it down after we put up three in that first period," Talbot said.
The Wild had three different lines contribute offensively, including the Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello trio.
Kaprizov opened the scoring with a slick wrap-around finish from his knees, and his linemate Zuccarello helped set the play up – earning an assist for his 10th point during a five-game point streak (the longest by a Wild player this season).
"This is Zuccy when he's healthy and he's playing his game. This is exactly what he does," said Talbot, who previously played with Zuccarello when both were with the New York Rangers. "He contributes at both ends of the ice. He can make plays with the best of them and he can also put the puck in the net, but he's just as good defensively. You feel comfortable with him in every situation. He just makes everybody better around him. That's exactly what I remember from him and what we expect from him."
Before heading back out onto the road, the Wild will take on the Kings again Saturday at Xcel Energy Center and a sweep could potentially lift the Wild into the top spot in the West Division. The team is currently in second with 22 points.
"We know they're going to come at us hard," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "I think going out and having a focus on the first shift and then building off that, getting pucks behind them. They play that same neutral zone lock that we play and it's kind of boring, but it's effective when you turn the puck over. So, for us it's doing the same things, getting the pucks into their end, and trying to win the puck battles down there."