The Minnesota Wild welcomed Niklas Backstrom back to the Xcel Energy Center as the franchise leader in several goaltending categories. However, it was Zach Parise that did the celebrating with a four-point game in a 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames Thursday.
The Wild’s assistant captain became the first player in team history to score three goals in one period and broke the team record for fastest three goals by one player. It took him just 11 minutes, 12 seconds to net the hat trick. He added one assist in each of the second and was denied a second assist by the official scorers.
“Had some more looks, some more chances,” Parise said about feeling this was coming. “You never know. You could miss a couple more, but fortunately tonight, they went in.”
He got the scoring started by tucking a shot over the left shoulder of Backstrom after the Flames’ fourth line was whistled for icing. Mikko Koivu won the draw for his first of three assists on the night. Mike Reilly dumped the puck around the boards to Parise behind the net.
Less than a minute later, Parise scored his second with a backhand shot off a rush that fooled Backstrom. Parise slid the shot under the legs of the goaltender before Backstrom could get down into his butterfly after receiving a pass from Charlie Coyle at the blue line.
Parise completed the hat trick at the 16:33 mark of the period by deflecting a shot from Ryan Suter at the point down into the net.
After the Flames got back to within a goal early in the third period, Parise and Coyle knocked a rebound off a shot from Suter toward the backdoor. Jared Spurgeon was there to shoot the puck into the wide open net at the 8:30 mark of the frame. That goal gave the Wild a perfect power play in which they scored 11 and 30 seconds into the man advantage opportunities.
The Wild (36-28-11) blew the game open in the third period with a pair of goals in the final seven minutes. Spurgeon notched his second of the game by shooting a puck knocked down by Mark Giordano past a reaching Backstrom. Giordano knocked down a pass Parise was trying to get to Spurgeon. After knocking it down, Giordano swept it out of the crease and put it right on Spurgeon’s tape. Whether or not Parise deserves an assist, is up for debate, but he felt he should have gotten one.
“Our scorers are sleeping sometimes,” he said with a smile. “I’ve never seen a tougher rink to get points than ours. Seriously.”
The Wild finished the game with three goals on five power play opportunities. They have now scored 25 power play goals in the last 29 games, which ranks second in the league since Jan. 21.
“We’re playing simple, a lot of shots,” Spurgeon said. “(Parise and Coyle) are doing well getting in front of the net and not letting the goalie see the puck. That creates second chances. A lot of good power plays around the league do score goals with just a shot and a rebound.”
Nino Niederreiter capped the scoring with a tic-tac-toe passing play from Jason Pominville and Erik Haula. Niederreiter received a pass at the bottom of the circles and cut across the top of the crease to lift a backhand shot over the glove of Backstrom with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the game.
The Flames (31-37-6) got goals from Johnny Gaudreau and Jakub Nakladal. Gaudreau, scoring his 28th of the season, knocked a rebound off the end boards behind the net into an open net eight seconds into a power play to cut a two-goal deficit to one.
Nakladal, his second goal of the season and his NHL career, sent a blast over the right shoulder of Devan Dubnyk from just inside the blue line off a rush at the 6:25 mark of the second period.
Thomas Vanek made the biggest defensive play of the game for the Wild. With his team leading by two goals. The winger passed a Flames forward and caught Brandon Bollig from behind knocking him to ice on a breakaway to deny him a shot on goal at the 13:31 mark of the second period. Vanek, after being scratched for the last three games, had the most jump and skating effort he has played with in his Wild tenure.
No. 3 – Mikko Koivu. The Wild forward had three assists.
No. 2 – Jared Spurgeon. The Wild defenseman scored two goals.
No. 1 – Zach Parise. The Wild forward recorded three goals and one assist.