The Wild got that strut in its step back Saturday night.
Twenty-four hours after seeing its seven-game winning streak end in Dallas, the Wild fought back from two goals down and then went 3-for-3 in a silky-smooth shootout to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings 4-3.
Zach Parise, who forced an exciting, no-whistle overtime with a third-period power-play goal, scored in the shootout, as did Mikko Koivu and Matt Cullen. The Wild reclaimed the top spot in the Northwest Division.
“It was a good rebound for us after [Friday]. Down 3-1 to the Cup champs, … we found a way,” said Parise, who was on the losing end to the Cup champs in June with New Jersey.
In front of a 13th consecutive sold-out Xcel Energy Center, the Wild improved to 9-1-1 in its past 11 at home after a 1-1 tie became a 3-1 deficit after second-period goals from Jeff Carter and Justin Williams.
But the turning point came 2½ minutes after Williams’ breakaway goal. A suffocating forecheck by the Parise-Koivu-Charlie Coyle line ended with the rookie Coyle scoring from his knees, trimming the Kings’ lead to 3-2.
“For our line, that was big to get some momentum and to get some feeling with the puck,” Koivu said. “It was probably our first shift in the whole game where we went back and forth and got some time in their zone and around their net.”
In the third, Jordan Nolan and Jarret Stoll took penalties 1:02 apart. That gave the Wild a 58-second 5-on-3, but the Wild couldn’t get set up, let alone get a semblance of a shot.
But soon after the first minor expired, Koivu fed Parise for his team-leading 15th goal and team-leading sixth on the power play.
“Goal’s a goal,” Parise said, smiling. “We had trouble setting it up and getting it in. Finally when we did, even though that one did expire, we had some good looks.”
Ryan Suter also assisted on the goal and now is tied with injured Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang for first in the NHL with 25 assists and 28 points.
Cullen also scored for the Wild in the first period. After Cullen’s shootout goal, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP last year, angrily sawed his stick in half across the goal post.
Koivu, who scored a sick shootout goal, had two assists and Niklas Backstrom made 28 saves in snatching his league-leading 19th win in 27 games. That matches his total last year in 46 games.
Backstrom also has won a career-high eight consecutive games and improved to 4-1 in shootouts — quite the feat for a goalie who was once statistically the worst shootout goalie in the NHL.
The victory came one day after the Wild left Backstrom, who had started 12 consecutive games and 16 of 17, back in Minnesota to rest. He skated Friday with former Wild players-turned-executives Andrew Brunette and Brad Bombardir.
“I don’t know if you can call that a rest,” Backstrom joked. “It was relaxing. On the other hand, the coaches give you a day off, you have to come back and step up.”
The victory was far from perfect. The Wild’s penalty kill, so stingy all year, was beaten twice. But coach Mike Yeo said it showed “huge amounts of character by our team” to rally against a desperate, talented opponent who has been playing well.
“It’s not going to get any easier,” Parise said. “We’re playing playoff hockey right now, let’s face it. From here on out, we’re going to be playing teams that are scrambling to get in or fighting for seeding. So, for us to get the points when we can, it’s important.”