Maybe it was the fight by rookie Nick Seeler, a heavyweight-style slugfest that was a throwback to when tussles like this crowded highlight reels as much as goals.
Or perhaps the finish by center Eric Staal did the trick, since the team’s best delivery man picked an opportune time to capitalize.
Either way, the Wild was ignited — as if its batteries had just been replaced — and the change sparked it to a 4-1 win over the Red Wings on Sunday in front of 19,037 at Xcel Energy Center. The victory extinguished the team’s two-game losing skid.
“Those are both huge plays for us,” winger Jason Zucker said. “I think they got us back into the game.”
Down by a goal, the Wild’s turnaround started during a delayed Red Wings penalty in the second period when Seeler and Luke Witkowski dropped their gloves after the Detroit winger nearly caught Zach Parise with an open-ice hit.
“I just thought, you know what, good time to step up,” Seeler said. “We were down 1-0. I thought it was the right time.”
Both traded blows that could have fit in a boxing match. Instead, they landed each in the penalty box for five minutes, with Seeler reporting there with blood on his forehead. After the game, his forehead was still red and bruised.
“Guys were on the bench and they were saying, ‘We gotta go now. If we can’t get motivated for this, then we’re in trouble,’ ” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Soon after, the Wild found the equalizer on the ensuing power play when Staal deflected in a Jared Spurgeon throw toward the Detroit net 7 minutes, 22 seconds into the second.
It was Staal’s eighth goal in his past seven games and his 34th on the season, which is tied for the fourth most in the NHL; the goal also moved Staal into a tie for the third-most goals in a single season by a Wild player.
Only 2:53 later, and on the Wild’s very next shot, the team moved ahead of Detroit when Parise’s one-timer off a feed from Mikko Koivu sneaked past Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard. Nino Niederreiter’s assist on the play was his 200th career point.
“You never really know how the guys are going to respond, but thankfully we came up with a couple quick goals after that,” Seeler said. “It was nice to see.”
More than execution, the Wild finally had energy that was missing from its play in the first period — a ho-hum beginning that helped Detroit build an early lead. Just 3:58 into the first, a blocked shot by Wild defenseman Nate Prosser caromed to Detroit winger Justin Abdelkader, and he fired the puck past Devan Dubnyk.
The Red Wings could have pulled away even more. They outshot the Wild 11-5 in the period and had a chance on the power play. But its lack of finish kept the door open for a Wild rally that included two third-period insurance goals from Zucker.
He tipped a Mikael Granlund shot five-hole on Howard at 15:42 and secured an empty-netter with 3:38 to go for his 28th.
Howard ended up with 23 saves; Dubnyk made 28.
“When we play our game, we can dominate,” Dubnyk said. “We can overwhelm teams. It’s not anything special. It’s not Harlem Globetrotters stuff. It’s just how good we compete when every single line plays hard and plays the right way.”