After securing a playoff spot last month, Wild players talked about using the remaining games to move up higher in the West Division and work on their play so they could be at their best when the regular season ends.
"It's important for any team that enters the playoffs to be playing at the top of their game," defenseman Ryan Suter said after the Wild clinched with a win at San Jose on April 24. "I don't think now's the time to take the foot off the gas."
A week later, the Wild is still in third in the West Division and the results have been uneven.
But the team does have a chance to build some momentum after finally shrugging off the Blues Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center for a 4-3 overtime win following two close losses to St. Louis.
"I guess a lot of people say you're just waiting and shut it down until the playoffs and blah, blah, blah," coach Dean Evason said. "But we don't talk about that. The group doesn't talk about that. Inside the room, we're getting prepared to play the game."
Although its previous setbacks to the Blues earlier in the week finished differently, the issue was the same: inconsistency.
The Wild blew a third-period lead on Wednesday en route to a 4-3 letdown and then rallied in the third to pick up a point before falling 5-4 in overtime on Thursday.
Once again, the team required a comeback on Saturday to outlast the Blues, but the response came amid a more even-kneel effort by the team. And that could be just the launching pad the Wild needs to rediscover a roll before the playoffs.
"We played a really good hockey club three games in a row where there was fluctuation of good play and bad play back and forth," Evason said. "You could almost probably knock it right down the middle of minutes that they well and we played well. They caught two more breaks than we did for a couple wins, and we got one tonight."
After being one of the architects behind the team's third-period comeback the previous game, Kevin Fiala was back at the helm on Saturday – setting up the game-tying goal before scoring the clincher on a blistering shot for his second career overtime winner. The last one came March 8, 2020, at Anaheim.
Mats Zuccarello had the pass to Fiala, his second point of the game.
"The guy can shoot," said Nick Bjugstad, who returned to the lineup in place of the injured Marcus Johansson. "You want to get it on his tape, and Zuccy was well aware of that. It started with [Victor Rask] in the neutral zone. I think he was gassed and put on a stickhandling clinic, and then Fiala took over from there.
"Just an awesome goal. He can shoot the puck. Whenever he shoots, he's got a chance to score. I wouldn't like to be a goalie when he's firing it."
Bjugstad was summoned into action to replace Johansson after sitting out the previous 12 games, eight with an upper-body injury and four as a healthy scratch. Evason learned in the afternoon Johansson would be unavailable, and the forward is considered day-to-day.
In his return, Bjugstad played 10 minutes, 11 seconds, had two shots on net, dished out one hit and blocked one shot.
"It was just off a little for him," Evason said. "But he worked his butt off and made some nice plays, played hard, so it was a good first one for him."
This was the seventh time this season the Wild snapped its losing streak at two games. The team is one of three in the NHL to not drop three or more in a row. Boston and Pittsburgh are the others.
"We definitely didn't want to lose three in a row," winger Nick Bonino said. "The great teams don't do that. We talked about that before the game, and I think over the course of this week we had some really good periods in both of our losses. I think tonight we played three pretty solid periods."