TAMPA, FLA. – With Zach Parise back in the Wild lineup Saturday night, Mike Yeo tinkered with his second and third lines against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He hoped the changes would last. They did — for five shifts.
After seeing how poorly the Wild was playing, the coach spent all game running his lines through a blender and seeing what spit out. Finally, the Wild found its game during a big third-period push and at least rallied for a point before succumbing 3-2 in a shootout.
“There was a lot going on — just trying to spark some guys and find something that was going to click,” Yeo said. “Tonight we were just naming numbers.”
The Wild, after a miserable first 30 minutes that included no shots in the first 15 minutes, outshot the Lightning 15-3 in the third. The Wild had one tying goal overturned by a coach’s challenge but kept coming and finally tied the score with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left, when Jared Spurgeon backhanded Charlie Coyle’s rebound by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
In the Wild’s first shootout out of eight overtimes this season (1-7), Parise, Mikko Koivu and Coyle couldn’t score. Ryan Callahan did, and the defending Eastern Conference champs took the extra point.
Asked where that high-octane third period was in the first two periods, Parise said, “I don’t know where it was. That’s not good enough. The bright side is we got a point, but two periods, that was not good hockey.”
Added Thomas Vanek, “Once we found our game, it was good, but it took way too long.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper gave props to the Wild, saying Minnesota is a good team and “you’re not going to keep them at bay forever.”
For many Wild fans who traveled to beautiful Florida, it had to feel that way the first two periods. The Wild looked 10 steps slow as the Lightning played keepaway with the puck, jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Valtteri Filppula’s 2-on-1 goal and outshot Minnesota 23-8.
Coyle tied the score late in the first though. Vasilevskiy came out of his net, Coyle read it perfectly and stole the goalie’s pass before backhanding his fourth goal in six games and 10th this season into an open net.
The Lightning regained its one-goal lead 63 seconds into the second when Ondrej Palat’s deflected pass went right to the red-hot Nikita Kucherov for a goal after Jason Pominville lost him on the backcheck.
In the third period, moments after Parise had a tying goal robbed by Vasilevskiy, Ryan Suter thought he scored on a power play. But just prior to the goal, Parise skated to the outside of the top of the crease with Vasilevskiy also on top challenging. Parise made contact with Vasilevskiy’s glove an instant before the puck flew past.
Cooper challenged goalie interference, and after a review, referee Rob Martell, calling his 1,000th and final game, overturned the goal for incidental contact.
“There’s no point in my thoughts or venting my frustration,” Parise said.
But the Wild, within striking distance all game thanks to Devan Dubnyk, ultimately tied the score.
Coyle started the game with Jason Zucker and Koivu. Vanek started with Mikael Granlund and Parise with Pominville being demoted to the third line. Five shifts in, Pominville was back with Parise and Granlund and Vanek was with Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula.
In the third, Pominville was having such a tough night, Yeo went back to Vanek, also having a tough night, on the Granlund line.
He tried Vanek and Pominville with Haula, Niederreiter on the Granlund line and ultimately Vanek, Coyle and Niederreiter together on the tying goal.
“He’s trying to mix things up to create some momentum and create a spark and we finally got it in the third there,” Coyle said.