Back when Zach Parise played for New Jersey, he got a good piece of advice on how to rally from a 3-0 deficit in the NHL playoffs. It came from his father, J.P. Parise, who actually did it with the New York Islanders in 1975.
The elder Parise helped the Islanders storm back from a 3-0 against Pittsburgh in the second round, making them one of four NHL teams (in 184 such situations) to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. “He loved talking about that,’’ Zach Parise said of his late father, as the Wild forward contemplated his team’s 3-0 deficit against St. Louis. “He always said, ‘Win a shift. Win a period.’ You have to break it down into small things.’’
That simple yet sound wisdom reverberated in the Wild locker room Tuesday, as the team practiced at Xcel Energy Center before jetting to St. Louis for Wednesday’s Game 4. While history tells them it is possible to rally, the Wild’s own more recent past also gives the team hope.
The Wild earned a franchise-record 106 points in the regular season, leaving players confident they have the tools to mount a comeback. Coach Bruce Boudreau did some tinkering Tuesday, changing line combinations and outlining strategies to create more traffic in front of the net. But for the Wild to avoid the sweep, players agreed they must recapture the form that won 49 games in the regular season.
“We can’t force a Game 7 tomorrow,’’ Parise said. “We’re a long ways away from that. Just win a shift, win a period, win the game, and then start over and try to do it again. We’re in a deep hole, and that’s the only way to get out.
“We can sit here and say, ‘We’re playing well. We’re playing well.’ But we’re not winning. So we’ve got to do better.’’
The Wild was eager to return to the ice Tuesday, after Boudreau gave the players Monday off. Many of them relaxed with their families, and Parise said the goal was for them to “let go of some of the frustration’’ after racking up gaudy statistics and zero victories in the first three games.
Tuesday’s practice emphasized getting bodies and pucks to the front of the net. To get past Blues goaltender Jake Allen, who has stopped 114 of 117 shots in the series, the Wild must obscure his vision. Parise said the team has to show more commitment to making things tough on the goalie, which means it must outmaneuver a muscular Blues defense that has done a superb job of controlling the area in front of the net.
Getting to the net also could help create more chances off rebounds. According to hockeyviz.com, only three of the Wild’s 5-on-5 shots on goal — 3 percent of its total — have come via rebounds, compared with 7 percent during the regular season.
Wild forward Nino Niederreiter noted that the ability to get to the net was instrumental to the team’s success when it was at its best. Despite the Blues’ mastery at boxing out, he said, the Wild must find a way to break through — a point echoed by captain Mikko Koivu.
“When you’re not scoring, you’ve got to try to get in front of [the goaltender], try to beat your one-on-one battle to the net and get the shots through,’’ Koivu said. “It’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of things that need to click. I’m a big believer that as long as you keep creating chances, they will go in eventually.’’
The Blues said Tuesday they understand how difficult it is to end a team’s season. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said St. Louis “lacked that killer instinct’’ a few years ago, but experience has taught it how to handle elimination games.
Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon said the team knows the odds are against it.
“We’re going to have to find our way back to be where we want to be,’’ he said. “We have the character and the players in this room to do it, and we’re all positive. We’re looking forward to the challenge.’’