SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Marcus Foligno wasn't just a participant in a first-period fight with the Sharks' Nikolai Knyzhov.
He also played official and pulled the plug on the tussle once it turned bloody inside SAP Center, a clash that set up the Foligno's third career Gordie Howe hat trick in the Wild's 6-2 romp Monday night at San Jose.
"I thought it was enough," he said.
The rugged winger wasn't looking for a fight.
"A stick kind of gets up in the groin area, and you're not too happy about it," Foligno said. "That stuff happens, and it's part of the game."
After dropping the gloves, Foligno's right hand connected with Knyzhov's left eye a few times and the San Jose defenseman was bleeding. The two struggled a bit longer before Foligno motioned for the referee to break up the fight, and then Foligno skated away from the 22-year-old Knyzhov.
"Good on him," Foligno said. "I give that kid a lot of credit. I think there's things you do when you're young to answer the bell and you have to do it and you gain a lot of respect from your teammates. So, I'm sure he got that tonight. But there's no point. Move on. I thought it was kind of over after a couple of punches. That's all. I've had guys let up on me before. It's just respectful."
The fight was the beginning of a Gordie Howe hat trick because once Foligno left the penalty box after sitting for his fighting major, he immediately set up a Wild goal – passing off to linemate Ryan Hartman, who handed the puck off to Ian Cole for the defenseman's first goal with the Wild and the eventual game-winner. Foligno then went on to score himself, a floater that caromed off a Sharks player and into the net later in the second period.
"You want to contribute and our line was all over tonight," Foligno said. "I think we just felt better out there. We made more plays. I made more plays. I felt a little better with the puck tonight, and Hartzy made some great passes and could have had a couple goals. But he played great. A lot of chemistry we're finding in our lines."
Leading the way is the Kirill Kaprizov, Victor Rask and Mats Zuccarello trio.
The line combined for nine points, this after racking up five in the 5-1 win at Anaheim on Saturday.
Zuccarello had a team-high four points, which matched his career best total for a game, and Rask also had a strong game with three; he scored his fifth goal of the season, which ties his goal output from all of last season.
"I think everyone in that dressing room knows that Rasky just needed an opportunity," Foligno said. "I think he's super skilled. He's patient with the puck. As a centerman, he's good on draws – especially tonight. I just thought there was a lot of good things in his game. You just need to play. Last year, he didn't really get that opportunity and now he's getting it and you're seeing what he's doing."
The six goals were a season high for the Wild, and what's unique about how the team is scoring is the team is capitalizing in transition off the rush – a sign of smooth zone exits and clean work through the neutral zone.
"Early in the year, we mainly scored off our O-zone play, cycling the puck, hanging onto it, getting people to the net, tips, rebounds," coach Dean Evason said. "You want to get those dirty goals, but I know it's nice as a player to score those type of rush goals, some skill stuff and with some speed. So it's nice to have a mix of both, for sure."