BOSTON – Relying on a rookie-laden lineup missing six regulars against a rolling Bruins team could have been how the Wild sunk deeper into a funk.
Instead, that's how the team snapped out of it.
Matt Boldy scored his first goal in his NHL debut, the game-winner, to help the Wild slough off that season-long five-game rut with a 3-2 comeback on Thursday in front of 17,850 at TD Garden after losing star Kirill Kaprizov to injury.
Kaprizov left in the second period because of an upper-body injury after getting crunched by Boston's Trent Frederic, who received a minor penalty for boarding to go along with a major for fighting the Wild's Dmitry Kulikov after the hit.
"Really frustrated with how Kirill got hurt," said coach Dean Evason, who didn't have an update on the severity of Kaprizov's injury. "It's a predatorial hit. It's one that the league, we don't want that. The puck is sitting right there. You know what he's doing. He's going to hurt our best player.
"… That is not a hockey play. The puck's sitting right there. Why not just take the puck and go? In a vulnerable position, you hit a player from behind. We see it all the time, and it gets taken care of. I hope it gets taken care of here."
Frederic also fought Marcus Foligno early in the third period and ended up taking 16 minutes in penalties, nearly nine more than he played.
"To me, on the ice, it looked like a dirty hit," Kulikov said. "He was coming in and Kirill was in a vulnerable position, and he still went for a hit. You don't want to see your teammate go down like that. Just unfortunate that he left the game."
Since the Wild started the game with only 11 forwards, opting for seven defensemen after Brandon Duhaime was ruled out because of COVID-19 earlier in the day, Kaprizov's exit dropped the team down to 10 while it was ahead 2-1. But the shorthanded offense was still effective.
Seconds after Frederic's boarding penalty against Kaprizov expired, the Wild doubled its lead when Boldy finished off a give-and-go with Foligno, flinging the puck over Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman at 12 minutes, 26 seconds.
"It's a surreal moment, for sure," Boldy said.
In front of family and friends, Boldy — who is from Millis, Mass., and played at Boston College — became the 10th player in Wild history to score in his NHL debut and only the fourth to tally the game-winning goal in his first game.
Although Boston flipped the score back to a one-goal game before the second period ended on a one-timer from Brad Marchand at 15:35, the Wild fended off the Bruins in the third to seal its first victory since Dec. 9 in only the team's second game in 17 days to end Boston's three-game win streak.
Another rookie, goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, made a season-high 36 saves, including 17 in the third and three in the final 10 seconds — a stretch that also featured two blocks by Foligno. At the other end, Swayman had 27 stops.
"We needed this win," Mats Zuccarello said. "It was a tough stretch for us there. It was a good relief when we got this win."
Signs of the skid's demise showed up in the first period when the Wild bounced back from a Taylor Hall power play goal that deflected off Jonas Brodin 6:35 into the first period.
That was a 5-on-3 goal, and the Wild responded with one of its own on a shot from Kaprizov from the right circle. The goal was Kaprizov's fourth in as many games, 14th overall and eighth point during a four-game point streak.
He also became the fastest player in Wild history to record 40 points in a season, his 32-game tear eclipsing Marian Gaborik's 36-game pace.
Only 1:23 later, another Wild power play goal put the team up 2-1.
When Nico Sturm was kicked out of the faceoff circle, Connor Dewar stepped in, won the draw back to Brodin and his shot was tipped in by Sturm for Sturm's first career power play goal. The assist was Dewar's first career point.
Overall, the Wild power play went 2-for-8 while the Bruins were 2-for-5.
After that, perseverance took over.
This wasn't just a slump-busting win but a signature performance by the Wild that came with key players such as captain Jared Spurgeon, center Joel Eriksson Ek and goalie Cam Talbot out injured.
"That's who we are," Kahkonen said. "We're all really proud of that."