Recently in San Jose, winger Zach Parise couldn’t capitalize when the team needed it most.
Late in the third period, with the Wild trailing the Sharks by only one goal, Parise whiffed on a chance to pull the Wild even and the team was dealt a 6-5 loss.
Just a week later, Parise was in a similar spot with the Wild seeking a goal and this time, he delivered – the first of two third-period tallies that spelled a 3-2 win over the Coyotes Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
“You keep telling yourself to do the right things, and you know you're going to get another shot at it,” Parise said. “Fortunately tonight it went in. The other ones didn't. But just keep working and keep going, and that's the only thing you can do.”
The power play goal capped off a two-point effort for Parise, as he set up winger Kevin Fiala’s goal in the first period.
Overall, the two’s line with captain Mikko Koivu combined for four points – cohesiveness among the three that’s becoming clearer the more minutes the three logs together.
“I feel like it's kind of been building that direction the last few games,” Parise said. “I think we're building chemistry and learning. We haven't played a lot of hockey with Kevin, so he doesn't know our tendencies and we don't know his. We are trying to learn and trying to become familiar with each other where we go on the ice, and we can just hit it when we're under pressure.
“I think we're doing a lot better job using the back to the net, and we're spending way more time in the offensive zone and now we're getting some scoring chances and that's the way it's supposed to be played.”
Fiala’s goal was his fourth in the last six games, another sign of the confidence he’s feeling and the rhythm he’s developing with Parise and Koivu.
And Fiala was rewarded for the progress, with coach Bruce Boudreau making a conscious effort to play Fiala in the final five minutes to recognize Fiala's improvement.
“I think he just looks more comfortable,” Parise said of Fiala. “I think the stability with the line is helping everybody. Like I said, we're talking all the time and working on different things. We are trying to become a good line, and I think it's starting to pay off a little bit.”
At one point, it looked like the Wild might not finish the game at full strength.
In the second, winger Jason Zucker hobbled off the ice and immediately went down the tunnel after dishing out a check in the corner.
On replay, Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers appeared to clip Zucker with his skate near Zucker’s left ankle.
But Zucker was quickly back on the bench and resumed playing.
“He just landed on me a little weird,” Zucker said. “I didn’t really know what happened, to be honest. I just felt his blade. That was really about it. … I wear those cut-proof socks, luckily.”
After overcoming the Coyotes, the Wild improved to 4-1-1 on home ice.
With those type of results, it’s fair to wonder if the Wild would have a better record if the schedule was more balanced instead of being so road-heavy thus far.
“Those are things that you think about on your spare time,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “But to sit and talk, or to complain or feel sorry for yourself, is not going to get you anywhere. The nice thing is this is back to being a place that is good for us to play and a place that are fans like to come watch us. We got away from that a little bit last year. I think our game as a whole has been a lot better over the past couple weeks and if we continue that, we'll start to get some road wins as well."
The Wild's performance in the third period helped stoke this success story, and that was a trend on the last road trip, too.
Against Anaheim and Arizona, the team polished off comebacks in the last 20 minutes. And even in the games the Wild lost – to the Sharks and the Kings – the team was engaged and active in the third and came close to pulling even.
After scoring twice Thursday, the Wild’s 20 goals in the third were its most for any period.
“We have a lot of veteran players,” said winger Jordan Greenway, who notched the game-winner in the third vs. the Coyotes. “They kind of lead the way. With all the experience they bring, they’re going to help out us young guys [and] help out everyone. So they definitely play a big part in that.”