Zach Parise helped get former teammate Devan Dubnyk's family into Xcel Energy Center for Friday's Wild home opener, securing four tickets for Dubnyk's wife and three sons to catch Dubnyk's return to St. Paul with the Sharks.
And then Parise made him pay on the ice.
"I guess that was good karma on his part," Dubnyk said.
Parise scored his first goal of the season, the clincher in a 4-1 win that continued the Wild's strong start after the team's first brush with adversity.
Not only did the Wild have just 11 forwards in the lineup but starting goalie Cam Talbot exited the game after the first period.
Even so, the team persevered, with backup Kaapo Kahkonen pitching a perfect, 17-save relief outing to help the Wild (4-1) to its best start through five games since 2008-09 (4-0-1).
"It doesn't have to be flashy all the time," said Kahkonen, who also backstopped the Wild to a 3-2 win in Anaheim on Wednesday that capped off a 3-1 road trip through California.
Kahkonen was ushered back into duty to start the second period after Talbot appeared to get stung by a Mario Ferraro shot late in the first period during a San Jose power play.
"It's not easy, but you just have to be ready for anything when you're a backup goalie," Kahkonen said.
Talbot was evaluated on ice before finishing out the period, and he even led the Wild out onto the ice for the start of the second. But he went back to the Wild's bench before the opening faceoff and Kahkonen replaced him; Talbot left down the tunnel and didn't return. He left with 11 saves.
"All indications [are] it's not serious," coach Dean Evason said after the game.
When Kahkonen took over, the Wild and Sharks were tied at 1 and the Wild was already using a revamped lineup.
Forward Nico Sturm was scratched because of illness but is not in the NHL's COVID protocols.
In his absence, the Wild chose to add defenseman Brad Hunt, who has skated as a forward before for the Wild. Still, Hunt was used sparingly with the team mostly relying on its 11 forwards.
But that didn't keep the Wild from getting an early jump on San Jose.
Just 5 minutes, 1 seconds into the first, center Joel Eriksson Ek put the Wild ahead with his team-leading third goal — a deflection that flew five-hole on Dubnyk, who was traded in the offseason to the Sharks.
Only 1:11 later, Matt Nieto's shot from up the middle evened the score and the Wild didn't respond until Parise's goal at 13:17 of the second. He put back a rebound off a Nick Bjugstad shot — Bjugstad's first point with the Wild — just seconds after he was denied by Dubnyk's pad. Dubnyk finished with 25 saves.
"Not a whole lot of guilt," Parise said. "He robbed me on that first one, so I guess we're even because I don't know how he kicked his pad out on that for what I thought was an open-net freebie. But fortunately, we were able to get it back towards the net and get a rebound one."
The third period didn't change the outcome, with winger Kevin Fiala (18:44) and Jordan Greenway (19:34) burying their first goals of the season into empty nets. Both power plays went 0-for-3.
Kahkonen is now 5-1-1 in his NHL career. And Eriksson Ek and Greenway are now tied for the most points on the Wild (5) with Kaprizov.
"They do the right things, and they get rewarded for it," Evason said about Eriksson Ek and Greenway.
The same can be said for the Wild, whose eight points are tied for first in the West Division with Vegas.
"The guys just simplified the game," Evason said. "We didn't try to do too much. We got pucks in and just skated and tried to get in on our forecheck and get our legs going. We were fortunate enough to find them before it was too late."