ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Twice defeated on the road last week by the Vegas Golden Knights, the Minnesota Wild returned home more than ready for their rematches with the West Division leader.
They were so locked in they even scored on their league-worst power play.
Joel Eriksson Ek had his second career two-goal game, and the Wild chased Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on their way to a 4-3 victory Wednesday night and a two-game sweep.
Kaapo Kahkonen stopped 24 shots to win his eighth consecutive start for Minnesota, extending his franchise rookie record despite surrendering a hat trick to Dylan Coghlan for the first three goals of the defenseman’s career. Coghlan scored with 6 minutes left and then with the extra attacker with 2:10 remaining, but Kahkonen fended off the final flurry.
“If you lose a game or two against a team, you want to show them that you’re not an easy team to play against and we’re going to fight and push back,” Kahkonen said. “I think we did a great job of answering.”
Kirill Kaprizov scored early in the third period, ending an eight-game, 0-for-20 slide by the Wild’s power play. Eriksson Ek punched in his own rebound for his team-leading 10th goal, and Carson Soucy made it 4-1 at 7:41 during a rare stumble by Fleury.
Coach Pete DeBoer turned to Logan Thompson for his NHL debut, a decision he said was simply for rest for Fleury. He was more concerned about his team’s “self-destruct” before Coghlan single-handedly brought them back.
“To be honest,” right wing Mark Stone said, “our execution was trash.”
Fleury, who stopped 25 shots before being pulled, entered the night ranked third in the league in both goals-against average and save percentage.
Eriksson Ek scored 19 seconds into the game after intercepting a clearing attempt, but Coghlan answered with his first career goal only 83 seconds later.
The tie lasted until Kaprizov padded his NHL rookie points lead early in the third, 25 seconds after Nicolas Hague was called for hooking on Mats Zuccarello. After Fleury denied a slap shot by Zuccarello and Nick Bjugstad kept alive the rebound, Kaprizov knocked in the puck for his seventh goal of the season.
The 23-year-old Kaprizov has 20 points in 24 games for the Wild, whose last power-play goal was on Feb. 22 at San Jose. They are 2 for 29 at home this season.
The Wild (15-8-1), who beat the Golden Knights (16-6-1) here on Monday, are two points behind them with St. Louis (15-8-4) in between. Minnesota is 9-2-1 in its last 12 games.
“I feel like we’re really coming together as a team and we’re jelling and there’s a lot of chemistry going on,” Bjugstad said. “It’s a fun group to come to the rink every day and go to battle with.”
Kahkonen has the longest current winning streak in the NHL and a 1.62 goals-against average during that span. Devan Dubnyk (Dec. 4-29, 2016) holds the Wild record with 10 straight wins.
“He’s a gamer, and he’s going to compete to make those big saves,” Soucy said.
Coghlan became just the third defenseman in NHL history to score his first three career goals in the same game, joining Uli Hiemer (1984, New Jersey) and Joe Hall (1918, Montreal).
“I wish we could’ve got the win. That would have been the icing on the cake,” Coghlan said. “But I felt pretty good.”
BUMPS AND BRUISES
The Golden Knights had defenseman Brayden McNabb (lower body, 15 games) and team points leader Stone (undisclosed, one game) back from their injury absences. McNabb made his presence felt early with a flattening check that sent the Wild’s Kyle Rau up the tunnel for medical evaluation. He returned, as did Kaprizov after being bloodied by an airborne puck on the side of the head.
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was sent back to Nevada for evaluation of his upper-body injury, stemming from a blocked shot on Saturday, which DeBoer called “not a great sign.”
Golden Knights: Travel to St. Louis for a two-game set against the Blues on Friday and Saturday. That means Pietrangelo, who signed a seven-year, $61.6 million contract with Vegas prior to the season, likely will miss his first opportunity to face his former team.
Wild: Stay home for three straight games against the Arizona Coyotes, starting on Friday.
More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL