How do you explain tonight?
For two periods, the Wild was getting pushed around, was uncharacteristically soft in its own zone and leaky on the penalty kill.
Devan Dubnyk was fighting the puck and offensively, the Wild had trouble getting pucks to the intended target of Semyon Varlamov because the Avalanche was so aggressive at challenging and getting in shooting lanes.
But the game turned incredibly in Minnesota’s favor in the third period when the Wild didn’t just mount a four-goal comeback from three goals down, it did so in a ridiculous, snap-your-fingers-like span of 5 minutes, 7 seconds. That’s the fastest four goals the Wild has ever scored.
You could just feel momentum shift. When Zach Parise made it 4-2, I said to my colleague to buckle up. When Nino Niederreiter made it 4-3, I said to my colleague, “It’s just a matter of time now. Rewrite.”
It was just so obvious. The Avs were in full-swing panic mode and just pinned its own zone for the first 10 minutes of the period.
Crazy night at the Pepsi Center, where the Wild took a 5-4 victory in regulation despite being down 4-1 after two periods and having my Twitter feed erupt with anger and angst and anxiety from ticked-off Wild fans. It was the first time the Wild rallied from three goals down to win on the road since March 5, 2009 (I think Mikko Koivu overtime winner where Brent Burns almost killed him with a leap).
On this night, Parise hoisted the Wild onto his shoulders by scoring twice in the third period, including the winner, to notch his third career hat trick and first with the Wild. It was the 19th Wild hat trick done by 11 different players).
It was the second Wild hat trick on Opening Night. The first came in my first-ever game as a Wild beat writer (Marc Chouinard in 2005, 6-3 win over Calgary, I think. Remember him?). Parise now has six points in the past two season-openers for the Avs.
Thomas Vanek tied the score 56 seconds before Parise’s goal and Nino Niederreiter scored 2:13 before that.
Maybe bad news on Niederreiter. He left the game in the third period when he slammed into the wall in the Avs end. He tried to check Matt Duchene, the Avs forward ducked out of the way and Niederreiter crashed.
Yeo didn’t have an update on Niederreiter after and was unhappy the Avs, according to him, had one doctor at the game as opposed to, say, the several the Wild always had. That doctor apparently didn’t come to examine Niederreiter during the game as is protocol. In the NHL, the home team is tasked with providing doctors. Some teams travel their own doctors. Most don’t (not so much cost as all team doctors have private practices). The Wild typically travels one of its team doctors late in the season and in the playoffs.
Just an impressive comeback all around.
Parise absolutely encapsulated himself as a player on his second goal to begin the comeback in the third. Relentlessly forechecking, Parise circled out of the corner and ran into the brick wall that was Gabriel Landeskog.
Parise fell to the ice, bounced up like it was nothing and went to the net. Matt Dumba’s shot got caught up in Nathan MacKinnon’s gear, Jason Pominville pushed the puck to Parise and Parise roofed it from the side of the top of the goalmouth.
“That’s what we’ve come to know with Zach,” coach Mike Yeo said. “We use the word relentless an awful lot. I think that was a great example of that.”
Said Patrick Roy, “All of a sudden, they score that second goal and the momentum shifted. We just couldn't stop it.”
On Niederreiter’s goal, the linesman waved off an icing at the red line feeling Erik Johnson could have played a Wild clear. Jason Zucker hustled into the zone, and after a forecheck by Zucker and Niederreiter, Niederreiter made it 4-3. Roy was fuming with the linesman afterward.
The tying goal was awesome. Charlie Coyle had one of the most impressive shifts I’ve ever seen him. He was so good, he didn’t even get a +1 because he was on the bench.
From behind as Duchene came out of the Colorado end, Coyle muscled Duchene off the puck, took the puck, sprung it ahead for Mikael Granlund and went for a change. Granlund fed Vanek and Vanek banked a shot off the right post and in.
Finally, on the power play, Koivu made a good play coming into the zone and then bumped it back to the point. Parise and Ryan Suter played catch with the puck, and just like they’ve drawn it up, Suter fed it back for a Parise one-timer and winning goal. Parise had a classic fist pump on his knee and then fly-by of the bench.
Roy called timeout. Why did he wait so long? Very good reason, actually.
“I was thinking about it, I won't lie to you,” Roy said. “My only problem is if I use the timeout I lose my challenge. If something happens, and it's a goal and we cannot make any challenge, that's the reason why I didn't do it.”
Parise said the game was “fun, entertaining and rewarding for us to play better in the third period and sneak out of here with a win.”
Vanek and Dubnyk said the leadership and Yeo stepped to the forefront big time between the second and third and said all the right things.
“The message was just, ‘Let’s start playing how we’re capable, and whether we come out of this win or not, let’s play a good period here and at least feel good about heading into our home opener,” Parise said. “You never expect to go in on the road and put in four in the third and get away with a win, but we could see the good things that we did to pay off.”
Parise added, “We’ve had some pretty fun, entertaining games against these guys. It’s a really good team. They’re fast and they’re skilled. It was two really good teams playing tonight. It was entertaining. It was fun.”
The Wild played an even first 10 minutes with the Avs, but Dubnyk looked to be fighting things and the Wild’s defense was soft. Parise hit the post on a breakaway, and then things began to unravel.
Of all players, Jonas Brodin, who had a tough first two periods, took a penalty (he had four last year) and 13 seconds later, of course, Jarome Iginla, the ultimate Wild killer with 38 goals and 70 points, scored.
Then, after the refs let Parise get accosted, Varlamov stopped Koivu and Zucker and Koivu began reaching for the puck and ultimately closed his hand on that puck while fallen on the ice.
Erik Johnson let her rip for a 2-0 lead. Then, the third line and Dumba and Brodin got trapped and Landeskog scored.
Yeo said, “We weren’t on for sure. It looked a lot like the type of game you play after a weeklong break after playing a couple very, hate to say, easy exhibition games. We pretty much sleptwalked through the first two periods.”
Yeo said, “Once they got up, it seemed like they really tried to run at us and that woke our guys up a little.”
After two periods, the Wild was getting outhit 20-5. It was 25-16 by game’s end. The Wild also out-attempted Colorado on shots 75-48. The Avs did a great job getting in shooting lanes and forcing the Wild to either try to put it through them or intentionally wide of them.
The Wild had 29 shots blocked and 16 that missed the net.
The Avs had five shots in the third period.
Yeo said of Parise, “What can you say? That’s what you need. A team like that is going to try to push us around and that’s not our style to drop the gloves and try to fight people. But we’re a team that competes and never gives up and we’ve got a relentless work ethic and he showed that tonight.”
Yeo said, “We have to make sure we’re not giving up four a game. That’s not our game. We have a lot of work to do. It was a bit of a wakeup call for us as far as how we prepare for our next game.”
That next game is Saturday against St. Louis, the team the Wild dispatched in the first round last year. Reminder, I’ll be co-hosting my podcast with Jim Souhan at 4 p.m. at Tom Reid’s. The Wild’s also having a pregame party outside the X at the same time.
Pominville had two assists and was plus-3 and Granlund had two assists and was plus-3. I mentioned Dumba and Brodin, and how they had a tough night. Dumba went up to Brodin after and said, “That’s not the way to start. We’ll be better.”
I’m writing a really fun, fun feature on them for Saturday’s paper, so please pick that up.
The Wild is now 9-4-2 in season openers and 1-3-1 in openers on the road. Yeo is 4-0-1 in season openers.
That’s it for me. I have a wakeup call in four hours, so I’m out of here. I’ll talk to you after practice, and on Twitter with hopefully some Niederreiter news. Kyle Brodziak and the Blues coming to town next!