DETROIT – The Wild didn’t make up any ground in the Western Conference playoff race, holding serve on the three-point gap that separates it from the nearest berth.
But by inoculating itself from the ho-hum vibe of the last-place team across the ice and instead executing a businesslike 7-1 dismantling of the Red Wings on Thursday at Little Caesars Arena, the Wild continued to assert itself as a legitimate player in this battle for the second wild card seed.
And its outlook will undoubtedly improve if the formula for success it used in Detroit keeps tagging along on this push to the finish line.
“We got something to play for, and we know that,” Matt Dumba said. “You look at the standings, and we all see how much these points mean to us right now. I think we did a good job coming out hard early and just apply the pressure.”
In one of the Wild’s most complete efforts of the season, 13 players tallied at least a point in the group’s fourth victory over its past five games.
At the head of the class was the fourth line yet again, combining for six points for a second straight game, while the individual standouts were Dumba and Kevin Fiala. Each recorded three points.
“The fourth line led the way at the start, and we just continued with everybody else,” Fiala said. “That’s a huge part of our team right now, that all the lines are getting goals.”
The fourth line picked up where it left off in Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Blue Jackets, with three goals in 2 minutes, 20 seconds setting the tone.
Captain Mikko Koivu floated a pass that Ryan Hartman buried on his backhand at 7:52.
On the next shift only 27 seconds later, it was linemate Ryan Donato who capitalized on a Hartman rebound. By 10:12, it was 3-0 after Fiala set Dumba up for a one-timer.
Shots were a lopsided 9-1 for the Wild at that point, and Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill called a timeout.
That seemed to settle his team down. Detroit made a better push that culminated in its own tally at 7:33 of the second, off a breakaway by Anthony Mantha.
But the Wild answered back with another three goals.
“Guys are just going over [the boards] and playing the same way,” interim coach Dean Evason said.
Dumba scored his second of the night on the power play, a one-timer near the top of the left circle at 10:30 that stopped an 0-for-16 drought for the Wild with the man advantage. The Wild went 1-for-4 on the power play.
Next up was Jordan Greenway, who shrugged off pressure from three Detroit players before wiring in a shot from the right side at 12:05, for his career-high 25th point.
“It was stalled on the boards there,” Greenway said. “I found a way to come out of it, and I was looking for someone to give it to but I didn’t see anyone. So, I just shot.”
That goal chased Jimmy Howard, who left with 12 saves on 17 shots. Jonathan Bernier made seven stops in relief.
And with 1:44 to go in the second, Fiala used a rising backhander to put the Wild ahead 6-1. He added one more highlight in the third, handing off to Eric Staal at 9:11 to cap off his three-point night. Dumba assisted on the goal to also earn his third point.
“We are so happy no matter who makes a point or scores a goal,” Fiala said. “It was a big night for everybody.”