Wild.com's Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 4-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday night:
1. Minnesota set the tone early and often.
With the Canucks on the tail end of a nine-day, five-game road trip that has brought them from Northern California to Long Island, it was imperative for the Wild to jump on Vancouver early.
Just six minutes into the game, Brad Hunt's shot from the right point caught just enough of Alexander Edler's breezers in front of goaltender Jacob Markstrom to change direction and squeeze under the crossbar for a 1-0 Wild lead.
Video: VAN@MIN: Hartman scores following Markstrom giveaway
Less than five minutes later, Mikko Koivu was on the receiving end of a bad turnover by Markstrom behind the net and floated a net-front pass to Ryan Hartman, who lifted a backhander into the cage for his seventh goal. The assist was the 499th of Koivu's NHL career.
Video: VAN@MIN: Fiala roofs PPG after slick toe-drag move
Almost six minutes after that, with the Wild on its second power play, Kevin Fiala scored his 12th goal on a beauty, toe dragging around a defender then whistling a shot past Markstrom from the left hash marks.
After going nine games without a goal, Fiala has now scored in back-to-back games, and like coach Bruce Boudreau said 48 hours ago, he has the ability to pull fans out of their seats. This goal certainly did that.
2. Hunt filled up the scoresheet.
Playing for just the second time since Jan. 9, Hunt did what he does best, produce offensive numbers from the back end.
In addition to his early goal, Hunt also had the first assist on Fiala's power-play goal later in the period, giving him his third multi-point game of the season and first since Dec. 19.
Video: VAN@MIN: Hunt rifles home wrist shot from point
Hunt, who established a new career high by playing in his 46th game of the season on Thursday, has missed time lately as he's battled illness. But with Nick Seeler now in Chicago, and with Carson Soucy out of the lineup with his own illness, Hunt took advantage of his opportunity to stake his claim to playing time.
His 17 points are now one shy of his career best, which he set two seasons ago as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.
3. The Wild has started its crucial week with a couple of victories.
After a disappointing return to action over the weekend, Minnesota were tasked with a pair of home games against Western Conference foes ahead of it in the standings.
A 3-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday and a victory Thursday later, the Wild has some positive momentum for the first since the week before the All-Star break.
Now, the challenge will be sustaining it.
Minnesota heads south to Texas for a tilt Friday night in Dallas against the Stars before returning home Sunday for a game against the Colorado Avalanche. Both of those clubs are currently sitting top-3 in the Central Division.