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Man on fire: Fiala scores first NHL hat trick in Wild victory

Winger has five goals and six assists over Minnesota's past seven games overall

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- In his relatively short time as a member of the Minnesota Wild, Kevin Fiala has proven he has the ability to put the team on his shoulders and carry it offensively.

Fiala was just a part of the offensive puzzle on Wednesday - a big part, mind you - but his production over the past half dozen games is just one reason why the club believes it has something special with the duo of Fiala and rookie Kirill Kaprizov.

The Swiss winger netted his first career NHL hat trick on Wednesday, leading the Wild to an impressive 8-3 victory against the West Division-leading Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.

In doing so, he became one of the first NHL players to have actual hats rain down on the ice with the 3,000 fans inside the arena on Wednesday, a nod to a much simpler pre-pandemic time and a much-needed taste of hockey normalcy. 

Video: Players Postgame vs Colorado

"That was cool to have the fans here and the energy," Fiala said. "We like to play in front of the fans and obviously to see the hats on the ice, it was very fun."

The hat trick punctuated a scorching hot seven-game stretch for Fiala, who has five goals and six assists in that span, a stretch where the Wild has compiled a 4-2-1 record. 

Fiala has shown these stretches in the past too, ending last season before the COVID-19 shutdown in similar red-hot fashion.

"I think I just try to simplify my game a little bit," Fiala said. "Shoot a little more pucks ... and right now it's going in. The bounces are with us, so just have to keep going. The bounces can go the other way too and we don't want it to do that."

Video: COL@MIN: Fiala boosts Wild with first NHL hat trick

Fiala went the first four games this season without registering even a single point, this after the hot ending to last year and a solid four games in the NHL's playoff bubble in August. 

In mid-March, Fiala had another one goal in eight game stretch where frustration seemed to be creeping in at times. But he's been nothing short of spectacular in the seven games since March 25.

Wednesday's performance was the kind of dominating effort that has Wild fans dreaming of what might be if Fiala can find a way to make these stretches a more consistent part of his repertoire. 

Video: Dean Evason postgame vs Colorado

"I think Kevin has had some ups and downs this year, and I think there have been lots of things that have played into that," Evason said. "But the biggest thing is that he's been, certainly in tonight's game, yeah it's awesome that he's got goals and assists and they're beautiful, and clearly that's what we need him to do to have success.

"But we also need him to not turn pucks over and play a strong defensive game. You can't play just an offensive game in this League, it's too good. We're very pleased with how he played in tonight's hockey game and it's been coming. Obviously he has the ability to score, but if he plays that complete game, he's a real asset to this hockey club."

All of the sudden, Fiala is hot on the heels of rookie Kirill Kaprizov for the team lead in goals. Kaprizov had a great night of his own, scoring his 15th and 16th goals of the season, and is now just two goals shy of Marian Gaborik's rookie record. 

Of course, Kaprizov has done it in half the number of games. 

Video: COL@MIN: Kaprizov one-times dish for his second PPG

It all begs the question: What could this Wild team look like with both Fiala and Kaprizov clicking on all cylinders? Both have the ability to take over games and score almost at will. 

Each was in that mode on Wednesday, and the result was eight goals for, which tied a franchise record for a fifth time.

"They're special players," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who had three assists on Wednesday. "And when they get that confidence and opportunity to play offense, they're gonna create stuff."

In the final game of eight against Colorado this season, an eight-game stanza that has had far too many Avalanche highlights than Minnesota would like, Fiala's night and the Wild's victory will certainly leave a mark as these two long-time rivals set their courses towards perhaps another playoff series. 

"That was a huge game for us," Fiala said. "We really came at this game and we wanted to ... just win the game and maybe give a little statement, show them that 'we can play against you guys' if we're gonna meet them in the playoffs. I feel we did a good job."

Video: COL@MIN: Johnson wires home his first NHL goal

That might be an understatement.

Following a disheartening 5-4 loss on Monday where the Wild was stellar for 40 minutes but lost the game because of a tough second period, and two blowout losses in Colorado last month, Wednesday marked the final opportunity for the Wild to make that statement.

Colorado won five of the eight games between the clubs, but Minnesota got the last laugh, proving to itself that it is more than capable of, not only competing with, but soundly defeating a team when it sticks to its own game.

"We just liked our response after our poor response [on Monday] night," said Wild coach Dean Evason. "We didn't have a good game [Monday], the score wasn't indicative of how we played in that hockey game. We scored some power-play goals and it made it look close. But we weren't close.

"We wanted the guys to play the right way tonight, and they did. Regardless of who we're playing, that's the right way to play."


Related:

Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 8, Avalanche 3

Video: Fiala's hatty fuels Wild's 8-3 victory against Avs

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