TORONTO – Any hole, regardless of how deep it was, had the potential to be dangerous for the goal-starved Wild.
But in its latest chase, the Wild did have an ally on its side.
Despite surrendering the fastest goal-against in franchise history — a deficit that quickly doubled — the Wild stormed back for a 4-3 victory over the Maple Leafs on Thursday in front of an announced crowd of 19,244 at Scotiabank Arena. The comeback was a feel-good start to a four-game Eastern Conference road trip that secured the team's second victory in its past three tries.
"That's what this group can do," Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said. "We're capable of that. That's what we've consistently done in the past, and it was fun to be a part of that one."
The four goals were the most from the Wild since it racked up five Dec. 13 against Florida, with one and two-goal efforts the norm the past few weeks.
And yet, the team wasn't rattled by falling behind 2-0 barely five minutes after puck drop.
"It didn't feel like, 'Here we go again,' " said Wild winger Zach Parise, who scored the game-winner, the third period's only goal. "It just wasn't that mood."
Only seven seconds into the first period, Toronto winger Mitch Marner pounced on a puck that bounced into the Wild's zone and lifted a rising backhander by Dubnyk — surpassing Brenden Morrow's goal 13 seconds into a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Oct. 29, 2008, as the quickest given up by the Wild.
Marner's tally also tied the Maple Leafs' franchise record for fastest to start a game, matching Charlie Conacher's feat from 1932.
"Crazy start," Dubnyk said.
Marner scored again on Toronto's fourth shot, this one off a give-and-go at 5:38. But after that, the Wild morphed into the better team on the ice.
"The message for us was not give up another one," Parise said, "and we're going to get our looks and we just have to score on them."
That's exactly what happened, as the Wild started to rally amid 19 first-period shots — which tied its season high for the frame.
At 9:10, center Charlie Coyle's backhand eluded goalie Michael Hutchinson, who was recalled from the minors only hours before the game with No. 1 Frederik Andersen out because of a groin injury and Garret Sparks sidelined to go through concussion protocol.
Peppering Hutchinson with shots paid off, as the Wild tied the score at 2-2 only 5:09 into the second period after captain Mikko Koivu buried a rebound. After a 14-game goalless skid, Koivu has two goals in his past two games.
The Maple Leafs moved ahead 3:07 later on a top-shelf finish by winger William Nylander. Again, though, the Wild responded.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon slid a shot five-hole at 9:36 to cap off a three-point game, which tied his career high, and only 4:21 into the third, Coyle fed a Toronto turnover to Parise for his team-leading 18th goal.
"The biggest difference is we converted on the looks we got," Parise said.
Assembling that lead wasn't easy, and neither was defending it.
Toronto tested Dubnyk 19 times in the third and received two power plays in the period, but the Wild withstood the pressure. Dubnyk made 38 stops. The team's penalty kill was 4-for-4, while its power play went 0-for-1. Hutchinson finished with 30 saves for the Leafs.
"Duby was really good in the third period," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Pucks bounced over their sticks and hit our guys. But sometimes you're just destined to get a little bit of luck."
But without the jump in goal production, that help doesn't matter — a sign that maybe the Wild is beginning to turn the page on its scoring struggles.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Parise said. "But it's a start. You've got to start somewhere."