Muffing its lineup card before getting steamrolled on national television to continue a winless streak was a debacle that could have haunted the Wild.
But if there ever was a way to move that 7-3 mess Tuesday at Pittsburgh to the back seat, the team might have discovered it Saturday.
By dominating the Stars 7-0, the Wild posted its most lopsided victory at Xcel Energy Center in franchise history and tied the team record for largest margin of victory overall — bookending a whirlwind week with polar-opposite performances.
“It’s an emotional roller coaster every day,” center Ryan Donato said. “One day you can be down in the dumps and the next day feel like you’re on top of the world.”
Bouncing back did little to improve the Wild’s station in the standings, with the team still seven points shy of a playoff spot in the Western Conference ahead of hosting the Panthers on Monday, but it did illustrate how fleeting momentum — good or bad — can be in the NHL.
And that has given the Wild hope this mini-turnaround can spark the long-term U-turn the team is seeking.
“It’s too early to say, ‘Everything’s going to go wonderful,’ because it’s only been two in a row for a team that needs to win more,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But it’s a start.”
A methodical 3-2 takedown of the Lightning on Thursday night was sandwiched between the two extremes and at 2-1, the week looks ho-hum in the grand scheme of the season.
In reality, the stretch could emerge as a turning point for the Wild — especially if the team is able to maintain the quality that enabled it to rebound from that letdown to the Penguins.
“It’s easy to lose in this league. It’s tougher to win,” Boudreau said. “But if you start doing good habits and good habits occur all the time, then you’re going to be successful. And the one little run we’ve had so far, we had all those good habits. Those are the video clips that I’ve been showing of what we did when we were successful.”
After dismantling Tampa Bay and Dallas, the coaches have fresh material to work with instead of rehashing the 11-game point streak and five consecutive victories from November and December.
And the catalyst for this two-game reprieve seems clear.
“It starts with defending,” Wild defenseman Carson Soucy said. “[If] we’re coming out of our zone clean, we’re going to get rushes. We’re going to have the puck a little more and get that confidence going.”
Goaltending has helped set this tone, with backup Alex Stalock stopping 45 of 47 shots in the past two victories and recording his seventh career shutout Saturday.
His breakaway stop against the Stars’ Denis Gurianov in the first period was especially key because the Wild ultimately deposited that save in Dallas’ net, moving the puck the other direction and opening the scoring on defenseman Jared Spurgeon’s shot.
“That was obviously huge, a big momentum swing, and we took advantage of it,” Soucy said.
Not only has a better defensive posture enabled the Wild to spend more time in the offensive zone, reigniting an offense that had gone stagnant, but special-teams play has also responded.
The team has committed only three penalties over the past two games after racking up 12 in the two before that. And the power play has tied the season’s best run by scoring in three consecutive outings, with the three goals scored Saturday (in three opportunities) the most in a game this season.
Just days earlier, the Wild’s returns in these areas were cause for concern.
Now they’re sources of optimism, with the team trying to settle the seesaw that is the day-to-day grind in the NHL to remain on the upswing.
“That’s the way this league works,” winger Jason Zucker said. “There are so many great teams, and we feel like we’re one of them. There’s good stretches and bad stretches. We just have to balance those as best we can.”