The Wild's solid start to the season is reflected in the West Division standings, where the team ranks second after a 4-2 debut. But its missteps are also on display.
By splitting most of its two-game series, the Wild has struggled to gain ground on its competition, a neutralizing effect of division-only play that has created a logjam among the eight squads.
"Obviously, we'd love to sweep our little sets as much as we can," center Nick Bonino said. "It's nice to get the first one. It puts you in a good position to do that, but there's a ton of parity in this league. I don't think there's a runaway favorite in any division and you see it around the league, especially when you play the same team twice.
"Teams are too good now. The scouting is too good. There's adjustments that are made quickly."
Through three doubleheaders, the Wild has swept only one, winning both times at Los Angeles in its first two outings of the season.
But because each victory came in overtime, the Wild banked just two points on the Kings in the standings, with Los Angeles nabbing a pair to split the difference.
Since then, the Wild has gone 1-1 against Anaheim and most recently San Jose after a 5-3 loss Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. That homestand continues Tuesday with another two in a row vs. the Kings.
Overall, the Wild's eight points trail only Vegas (10), but just three points separate the team from eighth-place Arizona.
"Every game is a division game, so it's huge," winger Kevin Fiala said. "You can take the points away from them, and [Sunday] they took the points from us."
This one step forward, one step back rhythm isn't just indicative of the Wild's movement in the West Division. The team is also seesawing its way through games.
"We play in spurts right now," Bonino said.
Take the effort Sunday.
Despite opening the scoring for the fifth time in six games, the Wild was outplayed throughout the first period and for much of the second.
"It just kind of got away from us," coach Dean Evason said. "They obviously had a lot more shots and attempts and I think they outchanced us a couple more in that first period. We thought we were fortunate and we thought we'd come in and we thought maybe second period we were going to be real good and come out and throw it in there, and we didn't."
Not until the team was dropped into a two-goal hole did the Wild finally skate with the urgency needed to start chipping away at its deficit, which the team did on goals from Nick Bjugstad and Fiala.
That resilience, however, was sabotaged by a meltdown late in the third, with San Jose's Brent Burns skating through all five Wild players to lift a shot over Kaapo Kahkonen and break a 3-3 tie with 1 minute, 48 seconds to play; Matt Nieto tacked on an empty-net goal.
"It seems like when we do get down, we play with a little bit more desperation and we play a little bit simpler," Bonino said. "Goals against so far this year have been a little bit self-inflicted, guys trying to make plays, and there's nothing wrong with that. But other than that, I feel like we're defending well. We're just missing offensively, especially our line."
Evason did scramble the top two lines after the second period to try to ignite a spark, pairing Bonino and winger Marcus Johansson with rookie Kirill Kaprizov and putting Fiala with Bjugstad and winger Zach Parise.
He said he would have to watch the game back to see if there was any chemistry with the changes, acknowledging that now might be an opportunity to get a new look with the lines.
And that might be one of the ways the Wild can iron out the inconsistencies in its play and start to climb the West leaderboard, by growing these early leads the team has a knack for and steering clear of rally mode.
"We sit here snakebitten, and the puck's in our net on some weird plays, stuff we'll try to address," Bonino said. "But [we need to] play a little bit more desperate, play a little bit more simple, and get to the net."