ANAHEIM, Calif. – Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen left his net to coral the puck but instead of retrieving it, the puck took a funky hop off the boards and rolled toward the Wild goal where it managed to escape the crease without getting pounced on by any Anaheim players.
"I got a couple of bounces my way tonight, which is nice," Kahkonen said.
Overall, though, Kahkonen's recent success has been his own handiwork.
After another steady showing, this one a 26-save outing Saturday in the 5-1 rout of the Ducks at Honda Center, Kahkonen continued a strong rookie season under mostly unexpected circumstances.
"I felt good," he said.
This was Kahkonen's third straight start, as he's handled every game since the Wild has returned from a COVID-19 shutdown that sidelined No.1 Cam Talbot and paved the way for Kahkonen to take over for the time being.
Kahkonen also replaced Talbot earlier this season when Talbot was out with a lower-body injury.
Although he and the Wild fell 4-0 in their first game back, Kahkonen has been mostly airtight ever since – stopping 42 of 44 shots.
Among rookie goalies in the NHL this season, he ranks second in wins (five) and is particularly clean on the road where he's totaled three of his victories and carries a .927 save percentage and 1.77 goals-against average.
"Obviously when you play a few games in a row, and especially after a break like that, you get back to a rhythm," Kahkonen said. "Every game's a little easier in that sense but also you gotta really focus hard and you gotta make sure you rest and do all the right things in between the games because the schedule is pretty tight. I felt pretty good today."
In front of him, the Wild scored a season-high five goals and one of those tallies came on the power play – a much-needed boost for the unit after starting the season 3-for-50.
Winger Kevin Fiala was the one to finally capitalize, burying a loose puck and celebrating emphatically afterward.
"Obviously when you don't score for a while, it becomes an issue for everyone and kind of feel stress about it," winger Mats Zuccarello said. "So, it was good to get it going and settle down and just keep working on it."
Fiala had a team-high three points Saturday, but Zuccarello's line with rookie Kirill Kaprizov and center Victor Rask was one of the most impressive.
The three players combined for two goals and five points.
"Obviously playing with Zuccy and Kapper, two real good players, it makes it pretty easy for me to play," said Rask, who was playing his first game since exiting the NHL's COVID protocols. He subbed into the lineup for the injured Marcus Johansson.
"I think we had some good chemistry out there tonight."
As for Kaprizov, he now leads NHL rookies in points with 11 (which is also tied for the most on the Wild) after setting up two goals.
"He's a wonderful teammate, and he works, works every night," coach Dean Evason said. "He works. He obviously has a skill set that will allow him to produce offensively. He's gotta clean up some stuff in the defensive zone, and he's gotta clean up some stuff as far as turnovers and just recognize when to make those pretty plays and when to make those simple plays. But he's willing to do that, so he'll continue to get better in that area as well."