GLENDALE, ARIZ. – One day after a displeased Mike Yeo let the Wild have it during a thunderous, on-ice critique before practice, one day after Zach Parise said the Wild was playing “very mediocre” and with no excitement, it would have been reasonable to expect the Wild to make the Sun Valley quiver.
After all, it was playing a reeling foe that had lost a franchise-record eight consecutive games at home. Arizona should have been ripe for the taking by a motivated Wild team looking to break free from the doldrums and climb back into playoff position.
The Wild didn’t exactly put forth that dominant performance some expected. That was in part because the team was playing a man short after defenseman Jared Spurgeon left warmups with a stomach virus, but the Wild at least avoided becoming the Coyotes’ first victim at home since Nov. 4 by rallying from a third-period deficit for a 4-3 shootout win.
“We had a pretty stern meeting and message [Friday] and I thought the leaders led the way,” Yeo said.
Parise talked the talk, then walked the walk by scoring a game-tying power-play goal — the Wild’s second of the game, which is unheard of on the road — with 5:53 left to force overtime. Parise and Mikko Koivu then each scored their league-leading 38th career shootout goals to lift the Wild to a much-needed two points.
“For us to come back and find a way to win was important just the way things have been going for us lately,” said Parise, whose tense team was 4-4-1 in its past nine.
The start of the game was a scramble with defenseman Marco Scandella already serving the second of a two-game suspension. The Wild found out minutes before the game that Spurgeon was a no-go.
Yeo said Spurgeon tried to take a few IVs, but it didn’t help. Spurgeon’s absence put the Wild’s back end in a state of flux, and it was felt all night as the Coyotes did a good job getting pucks deep to take advantage of the thin back end.
Top-two defensemen Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin were reunited and took the brunt of the ice time. Suter logged 33 minutes, 47 seconds — two seconds shy of his season high — and Brodin logged a career-high 31:54. The second pair was rookie right-shot defenseman Christian Folin playing his off-wing and Nate Prosser on the right. Justin Falk, fresh off the Iowa farm, played on the third pair with Stu Bickel, whom Yeo trusts at forward, not defense. In fact, Bickel was supposed to play wing because Ryan Carter was out with an upper-body injury. So not only did the Wild dress only 17 skaters, it was theoretically 16 because Bickel played only 6:20.
The Wild’s power play entered 1-for-44 in 14 road games, but Nino Niederreiter scored his fifth power-play goal and team-leading 13th goal 2:48 into the game. Oliver Ekman-Larsson answered shortly after.
After Antoine Vermette made it 2-1, Jason Zucker, with his father and one of his brothers in the stands, tied the score on a nifty breakaway, his 11th goal, with the same backhanded roof shot he used against Tampa Bay in October.
But with 28 seconds left in the second, Prosser had a shot blocked, then lost a puck battle with Kyle Chipchura. That led to a 3-on-1. Niklas Backstrom stopped Lauri Korpikoski’s first shot, but a slow-backchecking Mikael Granlund let up, and Korpikoski buried his own rebound.
That could have been a killer, but Suter drew a late power play, Charlie Coyle won a race for a puck to keep a possession alive and Jason Pominville, who set up Zucker’s goal, fed Parise for the game-tying slam-dunk.
“You’re looking for those guys to make a play, and they delivered,” Yeo said.