SAN JOSE, CALIF. – All it took was one game of chaos in Anaheim for the Wild coaching staff to take those overhauled power-play units and throw them in the garbage.
One game later, the Wild returned to its usual power-play units and it resulted in the eventual winning goal against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Zach Parise, whose fifth power-play goal of this season stopped the Wild’s 0-for-25 drought, said the vast changes in recent games caused little familiarity and, thus, mayhem.
He joked he didn’t even think the Wild’s power play got set up in recent games.
“Hopefully we can keep having good ones. Maybe we’ll stick together,” Parise said of the No. 1 unit that consists of him, Ryan Suter, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu. “Some of the best power plays we’ve had this year has been with that group. Lately, it’s been a lot of switching, … so it’s just made it tough not knowing outs, not knowing routes on entries. With this group, we’ve had some good power plays.”
Parise’s goal was the Wild’s first power-play goal on the road in 31 tries since Nov. 17. That spanned 13 games, which tied a team record. But coach Mike Yeo noted that people forget that early last month, the Wild actually had a power play ranked in the top 10 in the NHL.
“We struggled for a little while there and next thing you know all we’ve been doing is bouncing around and trying different units probably too much, so we decided to go back to that group,” Yeo said. “It’s had success before, so we went back with the group that’d had success.”
Suter said the power-play goal, which gave the Wild a 1-0 lead in an eventual 3-0 win, was a huge relief “just because it’s been all the talk.”
Added goalie Darcy Kuemper, who made 32 saves for his seventh career shutout, “It was kind of a breath of fresh air for everyone. You could see us get to our game after that.”
It was a solid effort from the Wild, who also got a Charlie Coyle breakaway goal at even strength in the final seconds of the second period and a Koivu-to-Erik Haula shorthanded goal.
Parise said it was a “relief to get the power-play goal, relief to win, relief to play a good game. … We really needed it for our own psyche. It’s been getting tough for us lately just losing a lot of games and not producing on offense; it’s been really tough and frustrating. The frustration was creeping in. Hopefully we can turn the page on all that and play more games like [Thursday].”
West Coast guy
Kuemper is expected to start Saturday in San Jose.
He is 5-1-2 since Dec. 5 with a 1.20 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and two shutouts. Besides the fact he typically is great in Los Angeles, he recorded a 25-save shutout in San Jose last month.
Asked why he’s so good in California, Kuemper said, laughing, “Maybe it’s the California girls.”