EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. – Fifteen hours later, those on the Eric Staal line were still crediting the Mikko Koivu line for Thursday’s comeback 5-4 victory at San Jose. Those on the Koivu line were still crediting the Staal line for creating the momentum.
And many in the locker room were still crediting Bruce Boudreau for key in-game adjustments that helped spur the Wild’s ability to rally from two multigoal deficits (2-0 and 4-2) and win for the second time in franchise history.
Zach Parise, after the best game of his season, especially praised the coach for meeting with him Tuesday in St. Paul. In the first half of the season, Parise hasn’t produced the way he’s accustomed, so Boudreau reminded Parise that his strength is hounding pucks, forechecking and going to the net with abandon.
“I had a good, long talk with Bruce the other day, and that’s one of the things that he pointed out to me, and I kind of recognized it, too,” Parise said after the Wild scored four third-period goals to stun the Sharks. “I wasn’t getting to the net at all. I was playing pretty perimeter for whatever reason, and he reminded me what makes me a good hockey player, and that’s getting to the net, getting shots and getting in on the forecheck.
“So I really tried to get back to that and do more of that. It worked out. I think that’s kind of the way I’ve got to play, and hopefully it’ll be the first of many good games. It’s no secret I’ve had a tough first half.”
After a three-point, five-shot game, Boudreau said, “That was Zach Parise.”
The Wild continues its three-game California swing in Los Angeles with a Saturday matinee. Any point by the Wild or lost point by the Blackhawks through Tuesday’s NHL games means Boudreau will be the first in Wild history to coach in an All-Star Game The coach with the best points percentage in each division coaches in the game later this month in L.A. The Wild leads the Western Conference, let alone division (.703).
“That’d be great for him, and that’s a good team accomplishment for us,” Parise said. “It’d be a good compliment for all of us doing the right things.”
Of course, when asked if he and his wife have All-Star Game plans Friday, the superstitious coach said jokingly, “Don’t bring that up. Just shut up.”
There were several pivotal moments Thursday. With the Wild being outshot 23-10 and trailing 2-0, Jason Zucker’s hustle drew a late second-period power play. Twenty-two seconds later, Parise’s drop pass to Staal resulted in the Wild’s leading goal-scorer and point-getter wiring a rejuvenating goal.
In the third, after using Jordan Schroeder, Chris Stewart and Jason Pominville on the right wing of the Parise-Staal line in the game, Boudreau elevated Nino Niederreiter.
The line erupted instantly.
In Friday’s practice, Niederreiter remained on their right wing and Erik Haula centered Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle. Niederreiter, who scored a Game 7 overtime winner during the 2014 playoffs flying down the right wing, likes playing the position coming into the offensive zone. He said it will take adjustments defensively, though.
Also Thursday, the Zucker-Koivu-Mikael Granlund line was tremendous. Koivu scored a pretty tying goal on Granlund’s rebound, then Granlund made a perfect, seeing-eye pass for a Koivu one-timer and eventual winner.
“He’s pretty special with the puck,” Boudreau said of Granlund, who has five two-point games in the past six games. “He always seems to be able to make that play. The only time I get mad at him is when he’s too cute and tries to make that play and it doesn’t work. But it works more often than it doesn’t.”
It was an impressive win to start the trip. The Wild carries a seven-game road winning streak into Saturday.
“In the past, when we were down, we just buried our heads and let the game play on,” Niederreiter said. “Now we have the confidence, especially on the road, we know we can come back from 2-0 and 3-0.”
After Thursday’s game and Friday’s practice, teammates were still commending each other. It’s further evidence of the closeness of this season’s team, one that was criticized last season for being distant and sometimes divisive.
“They look like they’re having a great time, but winning is the best medicine for everything,” Boudreau said. “If we lost 10 in a row, there might be some people not happy. When you’re winning and you’re successful, it’s not hard to be happy.”