John Hynes didn't plan on retooling the Wild before his first game behind the bench, but the team sure looked different in its new coach's debut.
The penalty kill didn't get scored on, two stubborn goal droughts ended, and the Wild played with a poise that's been absent much of the season.
But the biggest change was the result.
For the first time in three weeks, the Wild won, snapping their seven-game losing streak by dispatching the rival Blues 3-1 on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center to christen Hynes' arrival with a long-awaited and much-needed victory.
Hynes, who replaced Dean Evason after Evason and assistant Bob Woods were fired on Monday, became only the third coach in Wild history to start 1-0; Mike Yeo and John Torchetti are the others.
"The way that the group played tonight," Hynes said, "that's why I'm so excited to have the opportunity to coach them."
Frederick Gaudreau's first goal of the season late in the first period stood up as the game-winner thanks to an airtight performance by Filip Gustavsson the rest of the way, the goaltender turning aside 23 shots for just his third win and first in more than a month.
"That's a lot of pressure gone from us now," Gustavsson said. "We just need to keep building."
Gustavsson was especially locked in on the penalty kill, arguably the biggest eyesore of the season and a problem the Evason and Woods tandem didn't fix before their departure.
The netminder stopped all six shots St. Louis registered on the power play, and the Wild penalty kill went a spotless 4-for-4, their first clean effort in four games, after a clutch display in the third period. Matt Boldy was assessed a four-minute penalty for high-sticking — "A lot of anxiety, that's for sure," Boldy said — but the Wild denied the Blues the tying goal; captain Jared Spurgeon had a key shot block and Gustavsson made a timely save with the edge of his blocker.
"When your penalty kill is effective, your goaltender is your best penalty killer," Hynes said. "But I was impressed with the attention to detail, the stick detail, the willingness to block shots. I thought we were pretty solid on clears, which is important. So, it's the finer details of the penalty kill that were executed."
Then with 2:52 to go, Boldy wrapped his 10-game goalless skid when he buried a breakaway.
"It's been a long time coming," he said.
The penalty kill also persevered early, and the Wild quickly capitalized after they were back to full strength; the power play was 0-for-1.
Joel Eriksson Ek sent a Mats Zuccarello behind-the-net pass past St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington 2:41 into the first period for his team-leading 11th goal and third in as many games, while Zuccarello's assist extended his season-high point streak to seven games.
After Colton Parayko's shot at 10:30 slipped by Gustavsson, Gaudreau answered back for the Wild with 1:50 left in the period by flinging a wrister by Binnington (34 saves) for his first point in his 10th game.
"I haven't been doing much offensively lately, so my mindset is just trying to bring the puck to the net," said Gaudreau, who missed three weeks with an injury after posting a career-high 19 goals last season. "That one was not a hard shot, but it made its way."
This was just the third time the Wild led after the first period. They won the last two times that happened, and they kept that trend going vs. St. Louis.
"We just hit the gas," Gustavsson said.
Their lead never felt in jeopardy, a surprise considering the circumstances the team was trying to overcome. But then again, this didn't seem like the same Wild.
"Minor changes, guys showing up, playing hard," Boldy said. "You have all this change and everything like that, but I think it starts in the room, too. We haven't been happy about the way we've been playing and the losses piling on top of each other.
"So, yeah, we had a motivated group."