Three goals used to be a boon for the Wild.
Not by today's standards.
The trim total wasn't as splashy as recent tallies, but the 3-1 triumph over the Kings on Friday at Xcel Energy Center was just as effective — extending the team's winning streak to a season-long five games while handing Los Angeles its first loss in seven games.
"It was a great game more towards our identity," goalie Cam Talbot said. "We know we're not going to score six goals every night, but we're comfortable in these 3-1 games as well."
Talbot was almost unbeatable in his first start since Feb. 2 following an absence caused by the NHL's COVID protocols, picking up 27 saves. In front of him, the Wild offense used a three-goal surge on three straight shots in 3 minutes, 3 seconds to put the game out of reach.
First up was — who else? — rookie Kirill Kaprizov with one of the most impressive goals of his young NHL career at 12:33 of the first period.
After his initial shot hit the side of the net, Kaprizov scooped up the rebound, veered around the goal and then wrapped the puck behind Kings goalie Jonathan Quick from his knees, after falling as he was being chased by defender Drew Doughty.
"His separation from people is clearly special," coach Dean Evason said. "Combine that with his attitude, his team-first mentality, it's exciting for us as an organization."
The finish moved Kaprizov's career-high point streak to four games, during which he has two goals and five assists. Overall, his 16 points pace the Wild and all NHL rookies.
With an assist on the goal, Kaprizov's linemate Mats Zuccarello has 10 points during a five-game point streak, which is the longest by a Wild player this season. And their line with center Victor Rask is up to 21 points in the past four games.
"It seems like Zuccarello came into the lineup, he brought his swagger in with it and we all kind of followed," Nick Bjugstad said.
Only 58 seconds after Kaprizov's goal, Bjugstad buried the puck after it bounced out into the slot off the end boards for the 100th goal of his career.
And at 15:36, center Joel Eriksson Ek capped off the barrage with his team-leading seventh goal, a shot he fired past Quick after previously hitting the post. Eriksson Ek is already one goal shy of matching his career high of eight from last season.
Quick finished with 27 saves.
Ultimately, nine different Wild players registered a point, and the team has scored 23 times during its winning streak — which Talbot preserved late in the third period when the Kings applied their best pressure. Not until 2:50 remained did Los Angeles wreck his shutout bid, on a redirect by Jeff Carter.
"No one wants to come in and kill a streak like that, especially when you haven't played in a while," Talbot said.
The Wild's run started after the team stumbled 4-0 at Los Angeles on Feb. 16, the Wild's first game back from a COVID-19 shutdown. The lineup was much different back then than it is now, with taxi-squad players and call-ups filling in the holes caused by the players sidelined on the COVID list.
But as the Wild's health improved, so did its results.
The team swept the Ducks before overwhelming the Sharks and Avalanche by 6-2 scores to go 4-1 on a five-game road trip.
Evason said he was cautious of a letdown in the team's first game back in St. Paul, challenging his players to show up ready to play rather than feeling their way into the game.
And that's exactly what happened.
"We were talking before the game started about coming out with good energy, having a good focus," defenseman Ryan Suter said, "and the first period was the result of that good energy and focus."