The start of the season has been a best-case scenario for the Wild — and not just because the team has two wins in two games.
By debuting on the road, the Wild continued to sync after a summer shakeup, and some of the new additions have already made a difference on the ice.
"Completely agree," coach Dean Evason said. "You want to see your group play hard for each other and with each other, for sure. But to get rewarded, to reinforce that we're not only doing the right things systemically but we're doing the right things together as a group, yeah, it's obviously nicer to win than lose."
How the Wild emerged 2-0 from its weekend in California could also explain the cohesiveness.
After falling behind in the opener Friday at Anaheim and losing a key player in winger Marcus Foligno to the penalty box for 17 minutes, the Wild rallied.
Not only did the team get a timely boost from its power play, but Foligno capped the 2-1 comeback in stunning fashion — scoring the winning goal with 7.2 seconds to go.
"Character win," is how winger Kevin Fiala described it.
Then, the next night at Los Angeles, the Wild overcame another deficit before withstanding a late-game push by the Kings to prevail 3-2 and secure some early momentum for the trip home, where the Wild will debut at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday vs. Winnipeg.
"These few games show our system is sound," said defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, one of five newcomers in the Wild's lineup. "We can still make adjustments and grow our game, but I feel like we're playing as a team really well right now."
Kulikov and Jon Merrill, another free-agent acquisition, matched up against the Kings' top players.
Evason also utilized the fourth line, which includes rookie Brandon Duhaime, at important times. Alex Goligoski, who took Ryan Suter's spot on the top defensive pairing, logged nearly 20 minutes both games, and center Frederick Gaudreau notched his first goal with the team on Saturday.
"We already felt at camp that we would have a tight group," Gaudreau said. "Then after we went to Duluth, that was a great thing and then starting on the road like that and getting four big points for sure helps. It's huge."
Add in the contributions by the familiar faces, and the Wild is undefeated through two games for the second straight season.
Foligno and Fiala each have a goal and assist, while winger Kirill Kaprizov has assisted on two goals. Cam Talbot was in net for both victories, stopping 57 of 60 shots for a 1.51 goals-against average and .950 save percentage.
"Goalies don't usually play back-to-backs too often anymore," said center Ryan Hartman, who had the decisive goal against the Kings. "It is early, so he felt good. He looked good, as well. He's calm. He's collected. He makes the big saves when he has to, and that's what you need from your starting goalie."
Plenty more hockey is on deck for the Wild, outcomes that will shape the true trajectory of this season.
So far, though, the team is pointing in a positive direction.
"They weren't easy games," Kulikov said. "Both the game [Friday] against Anaheim and [Saturday], these are the teams that play [a] defensive style and it's tough to get through and get some chances with them. We stuck with it. It was a tight game out there. We came out on top in both games. Just keep going and build our game from that."