ANAHEIM – The Wild hasn’t had more than a day in between games since mid-February, rattling off 11 contests in 19 days, but the team’s about to get some time to recharge.
Its next test isn’t until Thursday at home against Vegas, the longest break the Wild will have the rest of the season since that matchup with the Golden Knights is the start of a 13-game, 24-day sprint to the finish line.
After taking Monday and Tuesday off, the Wild will practice Wednesday for the first time since last Monday. And it embarks on this mini lull in the schedule in a playoff spot after it rallied then nixed the Ducks’ comeback with a 5-4 overtime win Sunday at Honda Center at the end of a three-game, West Coast road trip.
“We said to ourselves, ‘We have to make it,’” winger Kevin Fiala said. “It’s do or die. We need these two points, for sure. I think everybody was dialed in. I’m very proud of the team.”
With two more points added to its stash, the Wild moved into the first wild-card seed in the Western Conference – one point ahead of Vancouver, Nashville and Winnipeg.
It’s likely that order changes by the time the Wild plays next, but the team at least took care of what it could control in its last opportunity to do so before pausing.
“We needed two,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said.
The clutch performer was – who else – but Fiala.
He scored on the power play in the first period to give the Wild a 2-1 lead and then served up the game-winner in overtime – the first time he’s done that in the regular season after scoring two overtime goals in the playoffs with Nashville.
This was Fiala’s team-leading 14th multi-point game, and the Wild is 13-1 when he records multiple points in a game this season.
“We try to get him out there as much as we possibly can,” interim coach Dean Evason said.
Luke Kunin played a key role in orchestrating Fiala’s highlight-reel finish in overtime.
He was tabbed to take the faceoff after the Wild was awarded a power play in overtime and swiped the puck back where it was scooped up by Fiala.
After Fiala handed off to Ryan Suter, the defenseman fed Kunin who sent the puck to a waiting Fiala for the game-winning shot.
Kunin, who switched to right wing against the Ducks after recently playing center, extended his point streak to a career-high four games with the assist. Overall, he has six points in his last six games.
“He played wing tonight,” Evason said. “He played center last game. He’s flipping around. He’s a valuable player to us. Plays a strong game, plays a steady game and he can chip in offensively. It’s a bonus.”
Another important contributor was center Alex Galchenyuk.
He set up the Wild’s first goal, a shot by winger Mats Zuccarello that came under question since Galchenyuk’s right skate clipped goalie Ryan Miller’s right pad before Zuccarello’s shot sailed into the net.
The Ducks challenged to determine if that contact constituted goaltender interference but since Galchenyuk bumped Miller outside the crease, Zuccarello’s goal counted.
And in the third, Galchenyuk scored his own – a tally at the time that looked like it could be the game-winner but a vital score nonetheless.
“Huge win,” Galchenyuk said.