STOCKHOLM – The Wild left Sweden with cherished memories, as four of their five Swedish players competed in front of family and friends while getting a rare in-season taste of home.
"Probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Joel Eriksson Ek said. "So, for me, it's been very special to play in front of the Swedish people."
But a unique experience is not all the Wild are bringing back to Minnesota.
They couldn't shed their losing streak in Stockholm during the NHL Global Series, the Maple Leafs prevailing 4-3 in overtime on Sunday in front of a split crowd of 13,356 at Avicii Arena to extend the Wild's skid to a season-worst five games.
"We came here for the results, and that's all that matters," Marcus Johansson said. "We didn't get the results that we wanted. We got two points. We wanted four, and that's just the way it is."
The other point the Wild snagged came in the 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators on Saturday, their first in a week and a half — their last victory was Nov. 7 vs. the Islanders — but the team came close to another win.
In 3-on-3 overtime, Eriksson Ek was denied after being alone in front; later, Johansson had a shot blocked by Toronto's Morgan Rielly, who fed the puck to William Nylander for a half-rink haul that Nylander buried behind Wild goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 3 minutes, 9 seconds after getting around Johansson.
"We had golden looks, and we just for whatever reason aren't scoring right now," coach Dean Evason said.
The point-blank chances are staying out, but the gritty goals are what helped the team get to overtime.
With the Wild trailing 3-1 in the third after Rielly connected on a screened shot 4:22 into the period, Jake Middleton's wind-up through traffic eluded Leafs goalie Joseph Woll at 6:10. Only 2:32 after that, a Brock Faber throw to the middle deflected in off Mats Zuccarello.
"We just put maybe a little bit more pucks at net, go for rebounds, stuff like that," said Fleury, who had 21 saves to Woll's 33. "Obviously, big goals from the guys to tie the game."
The Wild (5-8-4) were behind after blowing an early lead in the first.
Jon Merrill, in just his second game after being a healthy scratch for five in a row, tallied his first goal of the season at 2:37 on a slap shot before Toronto responded twice in less than six minutes: Auston Matthews pounced on a rebound in the slot at 12:43 before former Gopher Matthew Knies wired in a one-timer off the rush with 1:37 left.
Matthews' goal came on the power play, the Leafs going 1-for-2 to outperform the 0-for-3 Wild.
All three of those power plays for the Wild came in the second, a period that still helped pave the way for the Wild's comeback since they kept the puck out of their net.
"Zuccy twice in the second period said, 'Guys, we've got to stay positive,' " Evason said.
That the Wild did close the gap was another sign of the progress accomplished on this nearly weeklong stint in Sweden, a mix of catch-up time with family and sightseeing in addition to the work the players put in on the ice.
The penalty kill went 5-for-6 overall in the two games after a revamp, Marco Rossi (who set up Merrill's goal after scoring vs. Ottawa) continues to contribute, and the Wild even got healthier; Frederick Gaudreau returned after being sidelined 10 games with an upper-body injury and Ryan Hartman suited up on Sunday after illness kept him out on Saturday. Daemon Hunt was reassigned to the minors.
"I loved the way we battled back in the game," Fleury said. "We played the second and third right, played very well. Just disappointing to come up on the short end there."
After a 9 ½ hour flight on Monday, the pursuit for what the Wild didn't pick up in Sweden will resume in Minnesota.
"We have to go home and start winning games," Eriksson Ek said.