LOS ANGELES – One game after Thomas Vanek had his 300th goal taken away by an official scoring change, nobody was denying him that milestone Thursday in the Wild’s victory at Arizona.
Vanek, hours before playing the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night, said his only disappointment about having Saturday’s goal against St. Louis changed to Charlie Coyle was he never got to thank the thousands of Wild fans who serenaded him with a special applause.
“That ovation is something I’ll always remember,” Vanek said. “I guess it’s five days late, but thanks to them. It was a nice moment even though it didn’t come at the time.”
Asked if Thursday’s goal was a more appropriate one for 300 because it was a goal scorer’s goal as opposed to Saturday’s bank shot off goalie Jake Allen, Vanek said, smiling, “I like garbage goals, too.”
Vanek, who didn’t score his second goal last season until after Thanksgiving, is off to a strong start this year. Besides the offense, his work ethic has been noticeably better. Wild coach Mike Yeo wants to reward Vanek with more ice time and opportunity “if he keeps doing those things.”
“You look at what he has done so far this year, I would say it’s been a big difference compared to the start of last year,” Yeo said. “Five-on-five, his play has been very strong.”
Vanek credits Coyle.
“Chuckie’s really, he took a huge step,” Vanek said. “The center’s the hardest position. For him, a big power forward moving to the middle of the ice, … now he’s just a beast out there and you can see how much room he creates. He opens up a lot of room for me, and I can shoot the puck again.”
Vanek’s mouth still was sore and bloody from a high stick he took Thursday. He can’t feel the top four teeth, so he will require dental work when the team returns to Minnesota.
Suter vs. Downie
Throughout Thursday’s game, defenseman Ryan Suter had a running feud with the Coyotes’ Steve Downie, the longtime NHL antagonist whom Suter elbowed last season to draw a two-game suspension when Downie played for Pittsburgh.
Asked if Thursday was carry-over, Suter said: “Oh yeah, he told me. [In the first period], he said he owes me for last year. I said, ‘You owe me a lot of money for the dive you took,’ … and that’s probably what made him mad.”
Suter said Downie, who took 14 penalty minutes in the game, was “just doing his job and being a rat. … He’s trying to get under your skin. He’s good at it. He could be a really good player, but he chooses to go that way.”
Jason Zucker made the highlight reels Thursday. Zucker got tripped when Connor Murphy’s stick got caught in his right skate blade. When Zucker tried to get up, the stick got caught in both his skates, and he was stuck on the ice until the referee stopped play.
“When he first came at me in the corner, I noticed the stick get stuck in the first skate, and that’s why I fell,” Zucker said. “I don’t know how it ends up in the second skate. I saw the video. It was funny. I’ve never seen that happen before.”
Yeo joked, “I was trying to lobby for a tripping call, but I guess they could have argued for a holding the stick penalty, too.”
• Defenseman Christian Folin replaced Nate Prosser in the lineup Friday. Yeo said he liked the job Prosser did in Arizona, particularly on the penalty kill, but Folin has been playing well.
• As Darcy Kuemper made his season debut in goal, Devan Dubnyk backed him up. Niklas Backstrom was scratched for a fourth consecutive game.
• In front of his parents and grandmother, Duluth native Derek Forbort made his Kings debut.