SUNRISE, FLA. -- But even in victory, the Wild still managed to take a loss.
While the team pushed its season-long point streak to 10 games (7-0-3) in gutsy fashion, rallying for a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday in front of an announced 10,167 at the start of a three-game road trip, the Wild finished without defenseman Jared Spurgeon and captain Mikko Koivu.
Coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t have updates on either player’s status after the game.
“It was pretty good resiliency, and the character of this team is really good,” Boudreau said. “When we got down, we took it in stride. When we lost Spurgeon, we took it in stride. When we lost Mikko, we took it in stride and just kept playing.”
It’s unclear what happened to Koivu, who took one shift in the third period and then didn’t play again.
Spurgeon was hurt in the first period. After blocking a shot from Florida’s Aleksander Barkov, Spurgeon appeared to be favoring his right arm/hand area. He didn’t grab his stick with that hand and when Barkov wound up again, this time converting on the power play at 9 minutes, 54 seconds to open the scoring, Spurgeon kept his right side shielded to the inside and instead jutted just his stick into the shooting lane.
He didn’t play after that.
“Any team that loses their better players is always concerned,” Boudreau said. “But we’ve lost our No. 1 goalie, and guys came through.”
That was certainly the case Tuesday, with the Wild persevering to corral a season-high fourth consecutive victory and tie the franchise record for the second-longest point streak, and the players allocated more opportunity amid the absences of Spurgeon, Koivu and Devan Dubnyk (personal matter) took advantage.
Defenseman Carson Soucy secured his first career game-winning goal on his second NHL tally at 4:49 of the third when he caught a pass from winger Zach Parise with his glove before dropping the puck and burying it with his backhand.
Center Victor Rask, who moved up the lineup without Koivu, also earned an assist on the play.
“I just thought I could catch them sleeping there, and Zach’s a good player,” Soucy said.
“He can find me coming down the middle there.”
Winger Luke Kunin tacked on an empty-netter with 1:01 to go, capping off a comeback that started in the second period after the team fell into a 2-0 hole. Before the first ended, Florida scored again — at 14:26 — when Jonathan Huberdeau put back a turnover.
The Wild gave up 19 shots in the second, but a 2-for-9 conversion on its own attempts knotted the score. Winger Jason Zucker delivered on a breakaway at 9:26, and then winger Mats Zuccarello picked up the puck in the corner before unleashing it in the net in heavy coverage just 3:30 later.
Chris Driedger made 22 stops for the Panthers, who went 1-for-3 on the power play. The Wild was 0-for-1.
What made the Wild’s response relevant was the goaltending from Kaapo Kahkonen.
After Florida’s early pair, Kahkonen was perfect — rattling off 36 of his 44 total saves, the most by a rookie goalie in team history.
Kahkonen also is only the fifth goalie in Wild history to win each of his first two appearances.
“Any time you win, that’s why you play,” Kahkonen said. “The feeling you have after a game in the locker room with the guys when you win, it’s something that you never get tired of.”
More clarity on the Wild’s health should arrive Wednesday when the team practices in Tampa.
Although it could opt to recall a right-shot defender to replace Spurgeon if needed, Boudreau said healthy scratch (and lefty) Nick Seeler deserves a chance.
“We’ve lost important players quite a bit here,” Parise said. “So, we’ll make it work.”