NEWARK, N.J. -- Now a little more into a season and a half with the Wild, forward Marcus Foligno has finally found a level of comfort and confidence in his game.
Acquired in a trade with Buffalo two summers ago, Foligno spent most of his first season in Minnesota just trying to get comfortable.
Now, nearly though his second season, Foligno is finding his voice -- and finding his game -- in a Wild uniform.
The rangy forward did a little bit of everything on Saturday, scoring a goal, dishing out an assist and dropping the mitts in earning the second Gordie Howe hat trick of his NHL career as Minnesota won 4-2 against the New Jersey Devils.
Video: MIN@NJD: Foligno roofs backhander on wraparound
After scoring a goal in the first period, Foligno dropped the mitts in the second. Needing just an assist for the hat trick, guys on the bench starting coaxing him to pass.
"Everyone was yelling at me to get the Gordie," Foligno said. "Then everyone started calling me Gordie. I guess that's a really good nickname to have in this league though."
Foligno was vocal in his disappointment on Thursday following the Wild's 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
"Embarrassing," is one word he used to describe it. "Ugly," was another. He mentioned the Wild was making it easy on their general manager, Paul Fenton, as he assesses the team's roster ahead of the trade deadline later this month.
On Saturday, Foligno backed it up by having one of his strongest games of the season. In addition to his statistics, he was around the puck and he was physical. He was also timely, with his goal tying the score late in the first after New Jersey had jumped ahead by a goal.
Video: Locker room postgame reaction at New Jersey
"It wasn't really there for us last game, so you think about it for a day or so, you come out hungry and that's just the way it played out tonight," Foligno said. "There's just so much outside noise right now that we just have to realize that it takes the guys in here to change it. Everyone is willing to do it, we know that we're a playoff hockey team."
That sounds like a guy comfortable in his own skin.
The brother of Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno and the son of longtime Sabres captain Mike Foligno, who would go on to become a coach, Marcus Foligno seems to be finding his own ways of expressing himself.
"The genes are there," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of Foligno's leadership. "It's there. But the thing about having a voice is you have to feel like you're contributing. The more you contribute and the more you can talk."
Video: Boudreau postgame reaction at New Jersey
Statistically, Foligno is actually behind last year's pace of 23 points, which tied a career high. But his stats don't measure up with the eye test, especially over the past 15-20 games.
Foligno is confident, he's playing with a purpose and he's making a difference. He's also been trusted with taking on more of a role defensively, especially on the penalty kill, where he's evolved into one of Boudreau's most trusted killers.
"Yeah, you like to have numbers where you've got goals and assists but I think for the most part, when I go over the boards and guys know I'm out there, I think they know I can get a job done," Foligno said. "Whether it's getting a clear on the penalty kill, or get a good forecheck to get some momentum, I think I do some other things that this team needs and guys kind of thrive off of.
"I feel like points will come. You have games in this League where a lot of fluky things happen and you get points and there's games you feel amazing and don't get points. You just have to keep going and keep being steady."
That steadiness has earned the trust of his coach, a trust that was well earned.
After arriving in Minnesota, Foligno burst onto the scene with two goals and five points in the Wild's first seven games.
Then he went 33 games without a single goal, amassing just three assists as well over that span. His confidence in shambles, Foligno didn't carve out much of a role beyond his fourth line left wings spot.
Over the final month of the season, Foligno found some chemistry with Joel Eriksson Ek and slowly his game started to take form. In his exit meeting with Boudreau last spring, the coach told him he wanted to use him as a penalty killer this season.
Foligno worked hard over the summer, earned his spot on the kill and earned the respect of Boudreau in the process.
"I think that role gave him an understanding that, 'I'm more than just a fourth-line guy, I'm a penalty killer,'" Boudreau said. "And I think it's given him more confidence."
Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 4, Devils 2
Video: Balanced attack leads Wild to 4-2 win against Devils