The conversation inside the Wild locker room was very straightforward Sunday night at the Honda Center.
Trailing the struggling Anaheim Ducks entering the final 20 minutes of regulation, and with a few days off before their next game, the Wild understood a comeback was of the utmost importance.
The response was impressive as the Wild poured in a solid effort to force overtime, then budding superstar Kevin Fiala won the game 5-4 with a snipe in the extra session.
“It’s do or die,” Fiala said after the game. “We need these two points.”
For the Wild, that message applies for the rest of the season.
With the Western Conference standings currently resembling I-94 at rush hour, there will be very little margin for error over the next few weeks.
After a recent resurgence, the Wild are 35-27-7 with 13 games to play. Their 77 points have them in position for the first wild-card berth with three teams just a point behind them as of Monday afternoon.
Adding to the intrigue, the schedule is about to get a heck of a lot tougher for the Wild, starting with a game against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center.
That begins a season-defining week for the Wild, which also features crucial back-to-back games at Philadelphia on Saturday and home against Nashville on Sunday.
While the Wild can’t secure a playoff spot this week, they could play themselves out of one.
Which is why this particular stretch of games will serve as a good litmus test.
As much as the Wild deserve credit for putting themselves in playoff position, they haven’t exactly been battle tested over the past couple of weeks.
For every impressive win over the Edmonton Oilers on the road, and dominant display against the Predators at home, there were cakewalk victories over the very injured Columbus Blue Jackets and the historically bad Detroit Red Wings.
For better or worse, the competition ramps up from here on out as the Wild close the season with 11 of their final 13 games against teams still currently in playoff contention.
That could be a blessing in disguise, according to defenseman Matt Dumba, especially if the Wild are still playing next month.
“This way can prepare us for the playoffs just the same and make us really work for it,” Dumba said. “These games we’ve been playing against some other teams have been very competitive and tight checking ,so it’s kind of playoff like. We have to get used to that, because if we do get in, we’re going to be in for a battle.”