Most of the Wild’s struggles have come on the road, where it’s a rotten 1-6.
That wouldn’t be such an issue this early in the season if the team wasn’t designated the visitor almost every game.
Such is the Wild’s reality, though — through the rest of October, into November and even the start of December.
These road contests have the potential to determine the direction of the Wild’s season. But perhaps the antidote is being mixed in-house because after dismantling the Kings 5-1 Saturday in front of 17,444 at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild has won three straight at home for the first time since Oct.16-27, 2018.
Lugging this formula on the road is its challenge since that’s where the Wild (4-7) will play six of its next seven, starting with a back-to-back in Dallas and St. Louis Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We want to keep that confidence in this building,” captain Mikko Koivu said, “and now we have to find a way to win on the road.”
Although the blueprint wasn’t perfect, how the Wild shrugged off Los Angeles seems to be a workable strategy. After establishing an early lead, the team rebounded from a mostly stagnant second to pull away with a three-goal third. Each line factored into the offense, with 11 players securing at least a point.
“For a team that hasn’t scored a lot, any time we can get different contributors, you know they’re gaining a little confidence every day,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Add in steady goaltender from Alex Stalock (30 saves) and a stout showing by the penalty kill, and the Wild had more than enough to take advantage of a team that’s also underperforming.
“It’s huge,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “We definitely have to win these games, so coming out here tonight and handling business like we did was awesome.”
A floater from Dumba that caromed off screener Gerald Mayhew at 5 minutes, 50 seconds of the first gave the Wild that valuable early lead, but the team had trouble growing it. In the second, Ben Hutton delivered the equalizer on a blistering shot over Stalock’s left shoulder at 4:29.
Not until 2:56 remained in the period did the Wild capitalize, after a string of key saves by Stalock and consecutive penalty kills.
Center Eric Staal kept the shot off the rush, lifting it over goaltender Jonathan Quick’s glove for his third goal in his past three games and fifth point in the past four, after the Wild was blanked on back-to-back power plays.
The spark from that tally seemed to carry over into the third. Just 28 seconds into the frame center Joel Eriksson Ek swatted in the rebound off a Dumba shot. This was Eriksson Ek’s first goal of the season in his return from a three-game injury absence. Dumba also notched his second assist of the game on the play and is tied for the team lead in points (six) with Staal and fellow defender Brad Hunt.
Another first came later in the third, when Koivu buried a loose puck in front at 6:39. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon tacked on a season-high fifth goal at 12:24.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” Spurgeon said. “But if you’re able to win every week the majority of your games, it’s slowly going to come. It’s not going to happen in a week. But if we keep doing this, we’ll slowly get back into a position where we want to be.”