SAN JOSE, Calif. – As he sat at his locker stall Thursday night long after the rest of his teammates cleared out of the visiting dressing room in San Jose, winger Zach Parise replayed the chances he blanked on earlier that evening.
He put four shots on net — tying his season high for a game — but the most memorable ones came with about 2 minutes, 25 seconds to go.
After picking the puck off the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson, Parise skated in alone on goalie Martin Jones and had an attempt from his forehand and then his backhand. But Jones’ right pad blocked both, helping to preserve a 6-5 goal-a-thon that ended in photo-finish fashion in San Jose’s favor.
“That’s a situation there you want to be in with the game on your stick and unfortunately didn’t happen,” Parise said Friday after declining to comment in the aftermath Thursday. “It’s a tough spot to be in, but it’s also a spot you want to be in to get that opportunity.”
The miss wasn’t the only shoulda, coulda, woulda the Wild could point to.
Perhaps the most obvious what-if was the team’s four-goal collapse in the first period that emphasized the need for better readiness and an overall complete effort as the team detours from California to face the Coyotes on Saturday in Arizona.
“It’s just hopefully a lesson learned,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “If you don’t come prepared to play and you dip your foot in the water waiting to see what the other team’s doing, you’re usually going to be in trouble.”
Of all the problems that have popped up amid a 5-10-1 debut, the first period hasn’t consistently been one of them.
Before Thursday, the Wild had been tagged for only eight goals in the opening 20 minutes — the fewest in the NHL. But it was a familiar issue — breakdowns in the defensive third — that was a catalyst for the letdown to the Sharks, who took over the Wild’s zone to capitalize four times on 12 shots.
But the Wild had most of the game to recover, and it almost did.
It’s fair to wonder if the team would have pulled off the rally if it wasn’t forced into penalty-kill mode after winger Ryan Hartman was hit with a slashing major and misconduct for his whack to the back of Evander Kane’s left leg in the third period with the score 6-4.
“Unless you’re a Sharks fan or you play for the Sharks, you think that might be a major,” Hartman said Friday after declining to comment Thursday. “But those are probably the only people that agree on that call.”
What made the ruling sting even more was winger Jason Zucker’s goal moved the Wild within one once the team was back to full strength.
Zucker was benched for much of the final 40 after being on the ice for three of the Sharks’ goals in the first.
“That’s the first time I’ve done that with him in four years,” Boudreau said. “Sometimes talking just isn’t good enough. You gotta send the actual message.”
Asked about the situation Friday following the team’s practice in San Jose after declining to talk the night before, Zucker said: “For me at that point, I’m there for my teammates. That’s all that matters.”
And while the Wild came close to negating the impact of that first period, resiliency that was admirable, the result set a disappointing tone that was visibly clear by the way Parise reacted to the outcome.
“He’s frustrated because he hasn’t gotten scoring opportunities like he’s used to getting,” Boudreau said. “I said, ‘I know you didn’t score on the play and you’re thinking of the team because it would have tied the game at that point.’ But when we looked at the clips, he had four really good scoring opportunities last game. That’s more than he’s had in recent games. So I said, ‘Build off that.’ ”
With just four goals and one assist through 16 games, Parise is mired in what he described as one of the slower starts of his career. But he’s aware time is an ally.
“Keep trying to improve and get sharp,” he said, “and then when you get those chances again, be ready for them.”