The best rookie in the NHL wasn't the best rookie at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday afternoon.
Or even the second-best.
Wild freshmen Marco Rossi and Brock Faber upstaged Blackhawks 18-year-old phenom Connor Bedard, the duo dominating a first period that set up another decisive performance for the rolling Wild. Their 4-1 blitz of Chicago on the brink of a crucial week signaled three consecutive victories for the first time this season.
"They've been great all year for us," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said of his younger teammates. "Fun to watch."
Rossi scored twice and Faber assisted on both goals, but this result wasn't just the handiwork of the Wild's two youngest players; two of their oldest were also key.
Mats Zuccarello's game-high three points extended the 36-year-old's scoring streak to nine games, while 39-year-old Fleury notched 28 saves in his first start in two weeks and first win in almost a month.
At 548 career victories, Fleury is four away from passing Patrick Roy for the second-most all-time.
"Good to contribute," said Fleury, whose airtight start opened the door for the Wild to run away from Chicago.
After Rossi tipped in a Faber shot just 2 minutes, 11 seconds into the first period, the Wild went on the penalty kill and were pelted with shots — including two from Bedard — but Fleury fended off all seven pucks that reached his crease.
"He kept us in the game there," Rossi said. "After that, that was kind of a wake-up call."
On their first power play, the Wild doubled their lead at 12:08 when Rossi finished off a tic-tac-toe play that started with Faber.
This was the first multi-goal effort of Rossi's career, and his eight goals are the second-most among NHL rookies (Bedard leads the way with 11).
As for Faber, his pair of assists sealed his first multi-point game.
The former Gopher and Maple Grove native also had a slick defensive play vs. Bedard in the second period, knocking the puck off the reigning first overall pick to interrupt his rush into Wild territory.
"They play both sides of the puck well," said new coach John Hynes, who remains undefeated at 3-0. "When they have opportunities, they make plays. They have some poise and confidence with it and then when they don't have the puck, they're able to check well.
"That's been nice to see."
Rossi was denied his first NHL hat trick — "The most important thing is the win," he said — but his line continued to produce.
Kirill Kaprizov fed Zuccarello for a one-timer with 2:53 left in the first period before Zuccarello switched into playmaking mode on the Wild's next goal: Matt Boldy deflected in a Zuccarello shot 11:36 into the second on the power play. Blackhawks goalie Petr Mrazek totaled 30 stops.
During Zuccarello's nine-game point streak, which is one shy of matching his career high, he has three goals and nine assists. Overall, his 26 points in 22 games lead the Wild and put him on pace for a career year.
"His vision is really good," Rossi said. "Some players don't see what he sees. It's really nice to play with him. I just try to get open because if you don't think he will see you, he will see you."
This 2-for-3 output from the Wild power play was the first time in eight games they'd capitalized more than once, and the penalty kill went 2-for-3.
Chicago's Taylor Raddysh scored on the power play with 7:05 to go in the third period to wreck Fleury's shutout bid (Bedard picked up an assist), but this showing continued the Wild's turnaround from their seven-game losing streak — and with a different lineup.
Ryan Hartman returned from a two-game suspension for tripping, and Jon Merrill subbed in for Zach Bogosian on defense. Bogosian is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
The Wild's improvement has now upped the significance of an impending four-game road trip against their Western Conference rivals; trip bookends Calgary and Seattle are ahead of the Wild in the standings by only a few points, and Edmonton is actually trailing them.
"We're confident," Faber said. "Three wins is good for us. It's a step in the right direction. But we're still below .500.
"We know we have to keep getting better, trust the process, keep playing this way and keep building."