ANAHEIM, Calif. – The outcome was the same, but this time the Wild could feel proud about how it was achieved.
After shaking off the listless Ducks with a sloppy effort Thursday, the Wild was much crisper in the rematch Saturday — cruising to a 5-1 win at Honda Center that capped off a two-game sweep in Anaheim.
And it was the players, not the men behind them on the bench, who were holding one another accountable for the improvement.
"When you can listen to the team talking about the right things to do and how they believe we need to play to have success," coach Dean Evason said, "that's when it's exciting for us as a coaching staff."
Leading the way for the Wild was Kevin Fiala, who was dynamic during a three-point night that tied his career high and bumped his goal total to a team-high six on the season after scoring twice.
All six of Fiala's goals have come over his past seven games, and he has recorded back-to-back game-winners for the first time in his career.
"I felt great, especially tonight," Fiala said. "I felt my game was where it's supposed to be."
Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov had two-point performances, with Kaprizov becoming the NHL's leading scorer among rookies with 11 points following a pair of assists.
Among rookies to debut with the Wild, Kaprizov has required the fewest games (14) to reach 10 points.
"He certainly has not disappointed," Evason said.
Zuccarello was the first to convert, burying a Kaprizov feed over Anaheim goalie John Gibson's glove 15 minutes, 7 seconds into the first period. The goal was Zuccarello's first of the season after his debut was delayed by offseason arm surgery.
"I've had the puck a little bit and felt good," Zuccarello said.
Just 1:10 later, the Wild doubled its lead on an impressive individual play by Fiala. He breezed past Ducks defenseman Ben Hutton and wired the puck past Gibson — all at top speed off the rush for his second goal of the two-game series.
Unlike the 3-1 win in the previous game, the Wild didn't sag after moving ahead by a pair of goals.
During its second opportunity of the game, the beleaguered power play capitalized for just the fourth time this season (in 52 tries) when Fiala buried a loose puck in tight three minutes into the second period. The Ducks went 0-for-3 on the power play.
It was the 10th two-goal game of Fiala's career and fifth with the Wild. He is responsible for half of the Wild's power-play goals this season. Jordan Greenway earned an assist on the play, and he's tied with Kaprizov for the most points on the Wild (11).
Anaheim scored before the second period ended, at 16:29, when David Backes tipped in a windup from Josh Mahura.
That didn't bother the Wild, though, as the team answered back in the third period.
Victor Rask one-timed a setup from Kaprizov and Zuccarello past Gibson at 5:45 in his first game back since getting sidelined because of the NHL's COVID protocols. And then at 14:26, Fiala passed off a chance at his first career hat trick to help organize a goal by Joel Eriksson Ek.
Gibson totaled 24 stops, while Kaapo Kahkonen had 26 for the Wild in a well-rounded showing that the players demanded of themselves.
"It's one thing for us to bark back there, 'Don't turn the puck over. Manage the puck,' and continually yell," Evason said. "You don't know if your group is getting it or if you're just yelling it and they don't really want to do it. But when they are actually talking about it and saying it, not only on the bench but in the dressing room, then that's exciting."