Through the first two weeks of the season, the Minnesota Wild definitely are the surprise team of the Western Conference.
The unbeaten Wild will try to extend the best season-opening win streak in franchise history to seven games when they meet the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on Friday night.
Minnesota could become the first team since the 1994-95 Pittsburgh Penguins to open the season with seven straight wins. Also on Friday, the unbeaten Buffalo Sabres will try to win their seventh in a row when they meet the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes.
The longest winning streak to begin a season in NHL history is 10, by the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Minnesota, though, has lost three of its last four in Anaheim with the only win coming in a shootout.
The Wild (6-0-0) started their three-game California road trip with a 2-1 overtime win over Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Marian Gaborik scored 25 seconds into the extra session off a feed from former King Pavol Demitra.
“We tried to work a give-and-go, and it worked out perfectly,” said Gaborik, who has recorded at least point in five of Minnesota’s six wins. Gaborik had a career high 38 goals last season, including two in two games against Anaheim.
Demitra’s assist gave him a point in all six games this season, and also extended his assist streak to six games.
Wild goaltender Manny Fernandez has played all but 40 minutes this season, and is among the league-leaders with a 1.63 goals-against average. He’s 6-4 with two ties and a 1.84 GAA in 12 career games, including 11 starts, against Anaheim.
“This is our first road game, so it took us a little longer,” Fernandez said after a 35-save effort. “It was a lot easier to win at home than it was to come in here and play against a team that works that hard.”
The Ducks (4-0-2), who have yet to lose in regulation this season, wrap up a five-game homestand with this contest. Ryan Getzlaf, Shane O’Brien and Chris Kunitz all scored power-play goals less than 10 minutes apart in the second period of Anaheim’s 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
Corey Perry, who had two assists, capped the scoring for the Ducks in the third period.
“We knew on paper we had the players to do it here,” said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, whose shutout bid ended with 5:36 to play when Tomas Kopecky scored his first NHL goal. “We’ve had a good start and we just have to keep building on it.”
Strong defense and special teams play have contributed to the Ducks’ good start. Anaheim has not allowed a first-period goal, with Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov stopping all 63 shots faced.
Every other team in the NHL has already allowed at least three first-period goals.
Kunitz, the team’s leading scorer with seven points, has scored all four of his goals on the power play. He had just five power-play goals in 67 games last season.