Marco Scandella never did get a definitive diagnosis. The Wild defenseman believed he had the mumps — judging from his swollen face and his utter exhaustion over the past several days — but awoke Sunday feeling renewed.
After testing his stamina with a morning skate, Scandella made a surprise return to the Wild lineup after missing two games because of his illness. The real surprise came several hours later, when his blast from the center point gave his team a 4-3 overtime victory over Winnipeg at Xcel Energy Center. On an afternoon when much of the attention centered on Zach Parise’s comeback, Scandella scored the most important goal of a game that nearly slipped away.
Parise, who sat out five games because of a concussion, scored twice in the first period as the Wild built a 3-0 lead. The Jets tied it with three goals in a span of 4 minutes, 52 seconds in the third period before Scandella beat goalie Michael Hutchinson only 61 seconds into overtime.
The Wild ran its home record to 7-1 by killing all eight of Winnipeg’s power-play opportunities and keeping its wits during a fierce Jets rally. The return of two of its most reliable players helped immeasurably, too, in all facets of its game.
“[The illness] was really depleting,” said Scandella, who scored his second game-winning goal this season. “You feel tired all day. That’s how I knew I was ready to come back. I wasn’t feeling as tired.
“This morning was the first time I skated in five days. I felt pretty good. I was a little bit down from beating the virus, but once you’re in the game, you don’t think about that.”
Scandella logged 24:58 of ice time — behind only Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon — and scored his first career overtime goal. Parise, playing for the first time since Nov. 4, scored twice on four shots and added four hits, a blocked shot and a large dose of leadership.
He wasn’t particularly happy with the Wild’s inability to hold a lead he helped construct. Coach Mike Yeo chalked that up in part to the large amount of penalties, which disrupted the Wild’s rhythm and flow against a strong defensive team.
It controlled the first period handily. Nino Niederreiter’s power-play goal gave the Wild an early lead, Parise’s goals stretched it and the Wild’s defense held the Jets to only three shots on goal — all on the power play. But the Jets began to turn things their way in the second period, as the Wild was forced to kill five penalties.
Michael Frolik started the Winnipeg rally with a goal at 5:55 of the third, beating Nate Prosser to a rebound and flicking it past goalie Niklas Backstrom. Evander Kane’s goal from the right corner deflected off Mikael Granlund, and Backstrom was pulled after Andrew Ladd redirected Adam Pardy’s point shot past him at 10:47.
“You could feel things starting to slip,” said Yeo, who replaced Backstrom with Darcy Kuemper to try to slow the Jets’ momentum. “We just lost the rhythm of the game through the second period, and with that, things came out in the third. In the end, we found a way to win, and that’s all that matters.”
Yeo already was happy with Scandella’s game before overtime. He also was pleased to see his team settle down and return to the assertive, attacking style that gives it the best chance of success.
Scandella saw the Wild’s renewed persistence and sharp focus as well — and ensured it would be rewarded, with another surprise in a day full of them.
“We’re a resilient group here,” he said. “It feels great.”