Xcel Energy Center has been plenty loud this season. That’s what a stretch of seven victories in eight home games will do.
But the arena’s snowy roof nearly caved twice during the Wild’s 5-1 thumping of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night, once when part-time fighter/part-time winemaker Zenon Konopka was rewarded with his first goal in almost two calendar years and once when Zach Parise finished off one of the prettiest scoring plays in recent Wild memory.
Parise’s tic-tac-toe goal off Mikko Koivu’s “world-class pass” and Ryan Suter’s initial setup not only caused Parise’s mouth to go agape during a classic “did that just happen?” celebration, it put a stamp on a three-goal third period and 3-1 homestand for the Wild.
“The goals that they scored, you could have taped Patrick Roy, [Ed] Belfour and [Martin] Brodeur together, and we wouldn’t have won that game,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “They were so much better than us, they deserved the two points.”
Hours after coach Mike Yeo said he wanted more goals from Parise and Koivu, the first-liners delivered. Parise scored twice on five shots and added an assist. Koivu scored once on three shots, had two assists and won 11 of 15 faceoffs.
Justin Fontaine scored his fifth goal, Suter assisted on two goals and Josh Harding continued his remarkable run in net.
Harding, the NHL’s leader in goals-against average (1.10) and save percentage (.951), made 24 saves to improve to 8-2-1. He has given up 12 goals in 12 games, allowing one goal or none in 10. He again needed to be good early after a second consecutive slow start by his teammates.
“Sometimes you’re not quite there, but [good goaltending] allows you to find your game,” Yeo said. “He’s done that for us.”
Charlie Coyle returned after missing 12 of the past 13 games because of a knee injury. He assisted on Koivu’s tying goal after forcing a neutral-zone turnover.
“He’s good at being an out when we’re scrambling in the corners,” Parise said.
“Plays with speed, plays so smart, makes room for us out there. He makes a big difference in our lineup.”
Koivu said Coyle was so good “after missing all those games, what can he be in a month?”
It was a big goal for Koivu, who recorded his first multipoint game this season. He had scored once in 15 prior games, and this tally came less four minutes after Jiri Hudler gave Calgary a 1-0 lead.
“It feels good to get that confidence a little higher individually and help the team to win,” Koivu said. “That’s our job to create and score goals.”
Parise scored his fifth power-play goal in the second period before the Wild broke the game open in the third.
After Fontaine scored through Matt Cooke’s screen, Torrey Mitchell sent Konopka in for his first goal since Dec. 16, 2011, ending an 81-game drought. It was Konopka’s first point in 53 games with Minnesota. Linemate Dany Heatley picked up the puck for Konopka, and Yeo said “there were a lot of smiles” on the fired-up bench.
“Hopefully, they come in bunches now. I’m not going to bet my life on it,” Konopka deadpanned.
But the goal of the game came when Suter and Koivu set up Parise in highlight fashion. When Parise passed to Suter just over the blue line, Koivu drove the lane, took Suter’s pass in the slot and sent a deft pass behind him to Parise. Goalie Reto Berra was helpless.
“You always like [it] when you get those on your tape and the goalie’s sliding the other way,” Parise said. “That was a little bit of a gift.”
Added Harding, “That’s talent right there. Those are the big boys.”