Wild among hottest teams in NHL since return from COVID-19 pause

Minnesota Wild Left Wing Victor Rask (49) celebrates his 3rd period goal during an NHL game between the Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche on January 31, 2021, at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN. ((Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

If it weren’t for the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders, the Minnesota Wild would be the hottest team in the National Hockey League.

The Wild won its fourth straight game Sunday night, scoring four unanswered goals, three in the third period, in a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild got goals from Victor Rask, Nick Bonino, Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek.

Last Friday night, Kirill Kaprizov recorded a natural hat trick in the the third period, the first of his career, as the Wild got 4-0 win over the Coyotes. Minnesota was off Monday, didn’t skate and the Wild go for its third straight win over the Coyotes Tuesday night.

Kaprizov is on a tear, and leads the Wild in points through 26 games. He’s tied for the team lead with 14 assists, and is second on the roster with 10 goals. He’s also got six multi-point games, and is chasing franchise history in a shortened rookie season.

The Wild’s franchise records for rookies in a season, 82 games, are 36 points, 18 goals and 21 assists. Kaprizov still has 30 games to go.

"Will beats skill, but if you’ve got both, it’s tough to beat. He has both, he has the work ethic part, a bite, a grit level and when you combine that with his skill level, it makes a pretty good hockey player," Wild coach Dean Evason said Monday.

The Wild had nearly two weeks off after a COVID-19 outbreak within the team. Since their return, the Wild is 12-2-1 in its last 15 games and are looking to end their current home stand 5-0 Tuesday night. They’re No. 2 in the Honda West at 35 points, two behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the top spot.

Colorado is one point behind, St. Louis is two points behind and then there’s some separation with the L.A. Kings in the No. 5 spot at 28 points. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs.

Evason said due to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols, the team spends a lot more time together. As a result, the chemistry on the roster is coming together.

"You don’t see cliques within our dressing room, our guys do get along and it’s legit. I think that’s helped us obviously on the ice," Evason said.

After Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes, the Wild head to Colorado for a pair and then return home for two against the Anaheim Ducks, and one against the St. Louis Blues.