That must have been some miraculous maintenance day for Zach Parise.
One day after missing practice to be treated by a doctor for an undisclosed lingering injury, the slumping Wild winger ruined the homecoming of the winningest goaltender in Wild history Thursday night.
By the time Niklas Backstrom received a well-deserved video tribute, Parise had scored two of his three first-period goals in leading the Wild to a 6-2 rout of the Calgary Flames.
The victory, coupled with the Colorado Avalanche coughing away a 2-1 lead late in the third period to lose 4-2 to Philadelphia, gave the Wild a three-point lead over the Avs for the second wild-card spot heading into Saturday’s showdown in Denver.
Parise scored the three fastest goals by an individual in Wild history (11 minutes, 12 seconds apart, breaking Marian Gaborik’s record from his five-goal game by 53 seconds). It was Parise’s league-leading third hat trick of the season, first at Xcel Energy Center and the Wild’s 21st in history.
“It’s something special in this league and to do it in one period is pretty crazy,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. “You can tell from the first shift he was going and the team followed, that’s for sure.”
Parise entered with two goals in his past 25 games. He matched that total in a 46-second span of the first period. Parise also assisted on one of Spurgeon’s two power-play goals for his ninth career four-point game but was upset his set-up of Spurgeon’s second goal — a pass to the backdoor — was ruled unassisted by the NHL’s off-ice officials because the puck was first stopped by Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano.
An assist would have given Parise a career-best five points.
“Our scorers are sleeping sometimes,” Parise said. “I’ve never seen a home rink that it’s tougher to get points in than ours, seriously.”
Parise, now the team leader with 22 goals, has been pressing lately, but there were signs of late he was readying to erupt.
“You work hard and when things aren’t going well, it’s tough,” he said. “It feels good when it shifts the other way.”
Mikko Koivu, one of Backstrom’s closest friends, assisted on all of Parise’s goals. Nino Niederreiter also scored a goal, Charlie Coyle had two assists, Erik Haula extended his point streak to seven games and Devan Dubnyk made 31 saves as the Wild posted its third four-game winning streak in John Torchetti’s 20 games as interim coach.
It was an ugly return to St. Paul for Backstrom, playing only his second game in more than 14 months.
Parise’s first goal allowed him reach the 100-goal plateau in his 253rd game with the Wild. One shift later, Coyle sent Parise into the zone. As he glided through the right circle, Parise looked up and swept a backhander through Backstrom’s wickets.
It made for an awkward video tribute at the ensuing whistle as appreciative Wild fans saluted Backstrom, who won 194 games with the Wild.
“The outcome, I wish it would have been different, but the first time in my life you’re happy the game is over and you can move on,” Backstrom said.
Protecting a 4-2 lead, the Wild’s penalty kill extinguished back-to-back Flames power plays before goals by Spurgeon and Niederreiter clinched it.
Now the Wild can prepare for Saturday’s big game at Colorado.
“We always have good games with those guys,” Parise said. “They’re exciting, tough games, so I wouldn’t expect this to be any different with everything that’s on the line.”