STOCKHOLM — The Wild boarded their Monday morning flight to Minnesota with the same amount of wins they had when they left for Sweden a week earlier, their losing streak swelling to a season-high five games, but they didn't return home empty-handed.
"Hockey-wise, obviously we wanted more points," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said after the Maple Leafs' William Nylander capitalized in overtime on Sunday at Avicii Arena for a 4-3 final. "Wish I could have made that save there at the end to keep it going, see where that would have taken us. But the whole experience was amazing.
"Stockholm was very welcoming to us, and obviously it was a great experience that we had here."
An in-person showcase of the NHL to its European audience, this four-game showdown among the Wild, Leafs, Red Wings and Senators shined the spotlight on the teams' Swedish stars.
From the posters around Stockholm highlighting the action to the Swedish-themed game presentation, the Wild's Jonas Brodin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Filip Gustavsson and Marcus Johansson were headliners all week long. (Jesper Wallstedt was also there but as the third goalie and didn't suit up for any of the games.)
All four of the Wild's Swedish players were in the starting lineup on Saturday vs. Ottawa, each getting an extra loud roar from a crowd filled with Wild fans when they were introduced. Johansson went on to take a ceremonial faceoff from Daniel Alfredsson, the former Senators great who won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006, and Brodin wrapped up his intermission interview with a message in Swedish.
"It's really good to play in front of family and friends, and stuff like that is a really cool experience," Brodin said. "You're kind of like nervous before the game almost. Just want to play good when they're here watching you."
That game was Gustavsson's first at Avicii Arena, a venue that's usually reserved for the Swedish national team or concerts.
"It was nerve-racking at first," said Gustavsson, who mentioned having at least 25 family members in attendance. "A lot of people from my family are watching. A lot of Swedish people wanted to see all the NHL players. You take a good pride in that, and that makes you want to perform even better."
Gustavsson was locked in, finishing with 30 saves in the 2-1 shootout loss; the Wild even debated going back to him on Sunday vs. Toronto but decided to start Fleury.
"Statistically I probably won't get the chance to play an NHL game in Sweden again," Gustavsson said. "So being able to do it and I thought it went well. I didn't embarrass myself in front of the Swedish people, so I'm very happy with that."
But the trip wasn't only special to the Wild's Swedish players.
Kirill Kaprizov's parents and brother watched him play, while Marco Rossi also had his parents in Stockholm. Plus, there was the time Wild players spent together, bonding in ways they might not have otherwise if they were home or at a normal road pit stop.
Maybe that chemistry already made a difference.
Wild coach Dean Evason noted how the players stuck together on Sunday when they overcame a two-goal deficit to ultimately pack one more point with them.
"I think it's special for everybody," Evason said. "I know for us as a staff, it was incredible just enjoying the food, the museums, the culture, the atmosphere at the rink, and the city is such a beautiful city, and the people are so welcoming.
"I think we'll all take a lot of wonderful memories from this week."