One by one Wild players skated toward the penalty box.

Jake Middleton from across the ice. Pat Maroon followed. Soon Zach Bogosian appeared. Then Brandon Duhaime, Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson Ek arrived. Later, Vinni Lettieri and Brock Faber.

But this wasn't almost half the Wild lineup getting penalized at the same time.

They were showing their support for Marco Rossi.

The rookie was sitting in the box after fighting the Canadiens' Kaiden Guhle in defense of Kirill Kaprizov, the final piece of Rossi's first Gordie Howe hat trick in a 4-3 overtime win for the Wild on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center that had Rossi's handiwork all over it.

"Those are character-building moments within the locker room that maybe from the outside don't really get acknowledged too much, but it means a lot to a lot of guys in here," Bogosian said. "Just to show a guy's willing to do that and stick up for your teammates, that's how you build a great winning culture."

This was Rossi's most impactful performance of his young NHL career, and it began with him doing what he's been doing all season long: putting in shifts that generate momentum.

Rossi drew the first penalty of the night, a roughing call against Montreal's David Savard in the first period after Rossi reported to the front of the net. On the ensuing power play, Rossi, who's been promoted to the top unit in the absence of the injured Mats Zuccarello, wove a pass to Kaprizov despite being surrounded by two Canadiens players, and Kaprizov set up Matt Boldy for a one-timer.

"He's spinning off guys," Marcus Foligno said. "He's controlling the puck. He's carrying pucks in now."

Later in the period, Rossi pocketed a goal for himself, wiring in a Bogosian cross-zone feed.

His 11 goals are tied with Kaprizov for the second-most on the Wild, and Rossi's 21 points are fourth. When it comes to all NHL rookies, the center ranks second in both categories behind only Chicago's Connor Bedard heading into Saturday's game against Boston at Xcel Energy Center.

"That's the guy that this team drafted," Foligno said, "and it's just so nice to see him becoming the player he is right now and be rewarded, too."

The 5-foot-9, 182-pound Austrian picked by the Wild in the first round ninth overall in 2020 is a known playmaker, but the 22-year-old showed a new side to his game in the second period.

Despite never fighting previously in his entire hockey career, let alone the NHL, Rossi fought Guhle after the latter leveled Kaprizov into the boards.

"He did a great job," Kaprizov said. "I know he's a good teammate before. He's a machine."

Guhle is six inches taller and weighs 19 pounds more than Rossi, but that didn't matter to Rossi.

"You don't really think too much," Rossi said. "You see a bad hit and try to step up."

Before he was assessed an extra two-minute penalty and 10-minute misconduct for instigating the fight and therefore sent to the locker room for the rest of the period, Rossi was in the penalty box, and he had quite a few visitors.

"It's a pack mentality in here, obviously," Bogosian said. "We all care about each other. Any time you see someone get hit of that magnitude, you want to stick up for them. It's certainly not an easy thing to do, putting your body on the line like that. But it was great to see him do."

Rossi watched the action from his locker stall, and the Wild were worse after his exit.

Not only were they down to 10 forwards after starting the game with only 11 because of injuries to Zuccarello and now Ryan Hartman, Rossi was setting the tone and suddenly that beat was gone. The Wild's 2-0 lead was downgraded to a 2-2 tie by the time he returned in the third period.

But when he was back, the Wild were better.

They were given a power play on his first shift, and Rossi funneled the puck to Kaprizov before Kaprizov found rookie Brock Faber for the go-ahead goal. Rossi's three points equaled a career high.

Although Montreal responded later in the period, the Wild persevered thanks to a second straight overtime goal from Kaprizov off a Marcus Johansson pass, and Rossi helped lay the foundation for that finish.

"When you know a couple guys are out, you try to step up and help the team to win," he said.

Because of who's missing from the lineup, Rossi's contributions are getting magnified.

But he's been one of the team's steadiest players from the get-go, with three games the longest he's gone pointless.

"Without him, this room would be in a little bit deeper of a hole," Foligno said.

To get here, Rossi made his own climb.

He spent the summer training in the Twin Cities after a lack of production last season with the Wild and subsequent demotion to the minors.

Now, he's embedded in the team because of how frequently he is a factor.

"Confidence is really good, and I worked really hard for that," Rossi said. "So, I'm really happy how it's going right now, but for me it's important to keep going."