ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Matt Boldy had his second hat trick in the last five games for Minnesota, Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves, and the surging Wild beat the Seattle Kraken 5-1 on Monday night.
Jake Middleton had a rare goal, Ryan Hartman scored late and Jared Spurgeon, Marcus Johansson and Joel Eriksson Ek each had two assists as the Wild stayed in first place in the Central Division. They took a one-point lead on Colorado into the day, with a critical road game against the Avalanche coming next. Dallas is three points behind.
Boldy is a big reason why the Wild are in the lead, with 11 goals in the nine games they've played since superstar Kirill Kaprizov was sidelined by a lower-body injury. The Wild are 6-1-2 without Kaprizov, who's still 10th in the NHL with 39 goals.
“It just works like that sometimes. I wish I had a better reason for you, but it just seems to be going in,” said Boldy, who is second on the team with 28 goals.
Since the Wild entered the league in the 2000-01 season, only five NHL players have had more hat tricks at age 21 or younger than Boldy with three: Patrik Laine (eight), Marian Gaborik (five), Steven Stamkos (five), Alex DeBrincat (four) and Connor McDavid (four). Boldy, who turns 22 next week, had a hat trick in a 5-3 win over Washington here just eight days ago.
“It looks like he’s trying to throw it through the net, which is great,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “He has such a gifted shot.”
Jaden Schwartz ended Fleury's shutout bid with 9 minutes left, scoring on a bouncing rebound that banked in off the goalie and into the net.
“It didn’t feel like a 5-1 game. It felt closer than that,” Schwartz said. “Fleury made some big timely saves, and we just weren’t quite there for the second chances.”
The Kraken, who wrapped up a four-game road swing with their first regulation loss on the trip, control the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. They lead Winnipeg by three points.
Boldly flashed a wide grin when he notched the natural hat trick 50 seconds into the third period, prompting a shower of ballcaps onto the ice and an exit for Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer.
The fans were fired up for this potential preview of a first-round playoff series, chanting Fleury's name a few minutes later after a sliding pad save to deny another prime scoring opportunity.
“It definitely feels good to win knowing we might see them again. I think right now it’s trying to get the most points and trying to get on top of our division,” Fleury said. “I think that’s the focus right now.”
The Wild were outshot 36-20 by the Kraken and had only five on-target attempts in the first period. Middleton created a spark after Spurgeon faked a slap shot, passed the puck to his left and set up his blue-line partner for just his seventh career goal in 151 games in the NHL.
Boldy brought a lagging power play to life with his first goal off the setup from Johansson, the first time the Wild scored on the man advantage in five games. They were on a 3-for-22 skid until then.
Boldy, who has 17 points in 13 games this month since Johansson — the former Kraken left wing — was acquired in a trade with the Capitals and placed on his line, sneaked his second goal through traffic with 5:01 remaining in the second period.
Fleury is 4-1-1 against in two seasons against the Kraken. He beat them 1-0 in Seattle on Nov. 11. The 16-year veteran is also 8-0-1 in his last nine starts, with a 2.19 goals against average.
“He saved us a little bit there at the start,” Eriksson Ek said. “I've said it before, but both our goaltenders have been really good, pretty much the whole season. It’s a nice thing to have, for sure.”
Kraken: Host Anaheim on Thursday night, starting a three-game homestand.
Wild: Visit Colorado on Wednesday night, their first game in Denver this season. The Avalanche won both matchups in Minnesota.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Dave Campbell, The Associated Press