Semyon Varlamov was pulled so far out of his crease on a passing play between Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on Thursday night, it’s amazing the Colorado Avalanche goaltender didn’t strain his groin.
But that doesn’t mean that firing into a wide-open 4x6 cage was simple for Mikko Koivu.
The Wild captain had such an empty net, Koivu said, “I was a little bit nervous to get the puck. You don’t want to miss those.”
Koivu didn’t. (See the video here) The eventual winning goal put a stamp on a thrilling three-goal, 19-shot second period as the Wild knocked off the Avs 5-3 in the front end of a home-and-home series that ends in Denver on Saturday afternoon.
With his parents in from Sweden and in the crowd, 19-year-old rookie sensation Jonas Brodin also scored his first NHL goal. Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi each scored, Suter matched his career-high with three assists, and Parise and Matt Cullen assisted on two goals apiece as the Wild scored five even-strength goals and fired 40 shots.
“When they pulled the goalie, I looked at the clock and I was like, ‘Man, I hope we get to 40 shots before they get to 33,’ ” coach Mike Yeo said, laughing.
The Wild got that 40th on Koivu’s empty-netter to ice it. But after the game, most of the talk was about Koivu’s first goal — the highlight-reel goal that came after a sweet give-and-go between Suter and Parise.
Parise, who didn’t realize Suter jumped into the play to make it a 3-on-2 until he heard the “bench yell,” knew right away Suter would send the puck right back.
So Parise already had it in his mind that he would try to pass across to Koivu. The skilled winger slid a tape-to-tape goalmouth pass to Koivu on one knee for the goal.
“That was a very entertaining play to watch by three extremely skilled players,” Yeo said. “That was a big-time goal.”
On Varlamov skating so far out of his net he may as well have been in the Mississippi River, Parise said, laughing, “I think he knows I like to shoot.”
The three players that combined for the goal are on $243.25 million in long-term contracts. It’s the type of goal fans envisioned when the Wild spent $196 million on Parise and Suter.
“Yup, nothing but pretty goals,” Suter said.
Suter continued his sensational play since early February. His three assists give him 20, which is second among NHL defensemen for the league’s ice time leader. Jared Spurgeon led the Wild with 20 assists in 70 games last year. Suter has done it in 26.
“Huge impact in so many areas,” Yeo said. “The assists are the first one you’re going to look toward, but the leadership and the poise that he has ... that sort of thing is contagious.”
Mitchell, whose disallowed goal 2:27 into Tuesday’s loss to Anaheim still irks the Wild, scored 3:04 into Thursday’s game on a Cullen setup after Mike Rupp’s forecheck forced a turnover. The goal came 19 seconds after Zenon Konopka fought Cody McLeod.
P.A. Parenteau’s fluke knuckler — the first of his two goals — tied the score, but Setoguchi gave the Wild a 2-1 lead after Cullen wheeled around a fallen Greg Zanon in the second.
Cullen, who had a phenomenal game (seven shots), and Setoguchi have had tremendous chemistry for a month.
“He’s been hitting me more than I’ve been hitting him,” Setoguchi said.
Just 1:42 later, Suter hit Brodin — whose face appeared on the game program Thursday — for his first NHL goal, a whistling wrister.
“About time,” cracked Suter. “He’s got a good shot.”
Brodin, as Suter’s partner, continues to baffle defensively. The offense?
“It’s a matter of time before that continues to evolve,” Yeo said.