I bet all those Twitter peeps who were peppering me after the St. Louis shootout loss that it’s enough of Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu in shootouts were ecstatic tonight … until the Wild skated off the Calgary ice with a 3-2 shootout loss.
I feel safe saying for the first time in the Parise and Koivu eras (at least when in the lineup, obviously), neither guy got a crack in the shootout tonight.
Whether it was in reaction to their misses in St. Louis, or maybe thumbing through their recent shootout slumps or just a reaction to the way at least one of the two played tonight, Bruce Boudreau didn’t use either.
Parise is 40 for 96 in his career, Koivu 39 for 95. But Parise is 7 for his past 27, 2 for his past 11 and went 1 for 6 last year. Koivu went 0 for 5 last year.
Nino Niederreiter started the Wild off before Kris Versteeg scored. Jason Pominville tied it with his 26th career shootout goal before Sean Monahan, who was great tonight, scored. Charlie Coyle got the nod in Round 3, Boudreau said, because he noticed goalie Chad Johnson dropped his glove on the Pominville shot and told Coyle to try the same thing.
But Boudreau said, sarcastically, “I guess he changed his mind halfway down the ice.”
If Coyle scored, Boudreau said Koivu would have gotten the Round 4 chance.
Parise also only played the final 24 seconds of overtime, partly because the Wild opened OT by having to kill a 1:58 4-on-3 after Jason Zucker’s high-sticking minor with two seconds left in regulation. Zucker then had an ugly giveaway that led to the Wild being trapped, so it’s not like Boudreau had a lot of line change options in OT.
But, Boudreau admitted he didn’t put Parise out there earlier because he was worried if it went the other way there would be an odd-man rush the way Parise was skating tonight.
I asked point-blank if Parise is healthy. Boudreau said, “I don’t know,” and said he was going right from the postgame press scrum to the trainers to find out.
“He looked like he had trouble skating tonight,” Boudreau said. “He just looked sluggish, like very methodical in his skating.”
Parise only had one shot on a power-play one-timer tonight and the Parise-Eric Staal-Coyle line only had two first-period even-strength shots by Staal. Coyle had as tough a game as I’ve seen him having – no shots, tons of turnovers and just weird, convoluted board plays.
“They weren’t very good,” Boudreau said. “They’ve got to get going on their own. We can prod them, but in the end, we need those guys to be our best players, or we’re not going to have success.”
Chris Stewart gave the Wild an early 1-0 lead with his first goal in 16 games and first point in 15 games after overextending his fourth-line shift into a top-line role with Staal and Coyle.
But after Chad Johnson held the Wild’s hot third line at bay on a terrific forecheck, the Wild didn’t get a puck deep, something that was compounded by a line change. Monahan skated fast into the Wild zone, pulled up and found a trailer, Jyrki Jokipakka. The defenseman hammered a puck from the top of the left circle.
Not only did defenseman Matt Dumba not try to block the shot, he then didn’t defend Versteeg at the side of the net. He tied the score on a rebound.
Less than a minute later, Erik Haula took a holding penalty and 10 seconds later, Mikael Backlund made it 2-1.
Devan Dubnyk denied Mark Giordano’s shot, then robbed Matthew Tkachuk on the rebound. But a puck spit into the crease and the only one to find it off a scramble was Backlund.
The Wild has given up four power-play goals on the road trip.
The Wild actually took three penalties in the first period after entering the game with the third-fewest minors in the NHL and averaging 2.9 times shorthanded per game.
The Flames did a great job locking things down and making it very tough for the Wild to get through the neutral zone in the first 40 minutes. But in the third, a great shift by the second line resulted in Koivu’s tying goal.
The Wild had two chances to score on the power play in the third and didn’t even get a shot against the league’s 28th-ranked penalty kill. It did get a big kill though after a Dumba penalty in the third, and then the Zucker penalty that filtered into OT.
Dubnyk was clutch in the third with some huge saves after Koivu tied it, and Jared Spurgeon, who had five shots, two assists and four blocked shots, robbed Michael Frolik of a game-winner in OT.
Overall early, Boudreau said, “It just looked like we were really sluggish, like we were skating in quicksand. We were playing too slow, and when you play slow, bad things happen.”
Said Dubnyk, “I don’t think it was our best game by any means, but that’s a hard earned point and we stuck with what we were doing even though things didn’t seem to be bouncing our way most of the game.”
The Wild fell to 0-1-2 on its five-game road trip and 5-6-2 in its past 13 games.
On to Edmonton, where superstar Connor McDavid and the Oilers play back-to-back home games, so no excuse for the Wild to be the more sluggish team Sunday.