Myers: Zach Parise makes most of another chance to knock off Kings
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The bad news of the condensed NHL schedule means that back-to-back games (often in different cities) are commonplace. The good news is that if you have an unhappy ending, you often get a chance to write a new script 24 hours later.
But for Minnesota Wild star Zach Parise, the wait for another crack at the Los Angeles Kings seemed to take forever. Last June, Parise played his final game as a New Jersey Devil at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and had to watch the Kings parade about with the Stanley Cup, after his team was dispatched in six games.
Ten months, one huge new contract, one new team and one seemingly endless lockout later, it took an on-ice resurrection the night before Easter, but Parise got revenge on the Kings, and the Wild had reason to smile after the final horn.
Parise's power play goal in the third period tied the game at 3 and helped erase the Kings' two-goal second period lead. After five minutes of the most intense four-on-four overtime hockey we've seen around these parts in a long time, Parise opened the shooutout with a nifty deke around Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Shootout goals by Mikko Koivu and Matt Cullen would follow, and Quick shattering his stick across the post would follow that, as another huge crowd went bonkers over their team's eighth win in the past nine games.
Quick slumped in his locker room stall and gave one-sentence answers after the game, mumbling about letting points slip away. Kings coach Darryl Sutter was even less verbose, and much less courageous, fleeing to the team bus without talking to the media - an action which is expected to draw a fine from the NHL.
With the early-season noise from Chicago and Anaheim in the Western Conference, and the tooth-and-nail battle for the top spot in the Northwest Division going on between the Wild and Vancouver, the Kings have been largely forgotten, despite being solidly in the playoff picture and a potential first-round post-season opponent for the Wild.
But Parise hadn't forgotten about them, and memories of his final dealings with the Devils came flooding back when he saw those monochromatic sweaters from SoCal on Saturday.
"You get some flashbacks to what happened last year," said Parise, who added that the Kings were, in his opinion, the best team the Wild has faced this season. "It's a new team and a new place, but you definitely have some feelings coming back of the torture from last year."
After losing in Dallas on Friday night, while the Kings were getting a good night's rest in their St. Paul hotel rooms, and trailing by a pair in the second period, it would have been easy for the Wild to pack it in, write it off, conserve some energy for Monday night's meeting with the young, hungry Blues.
Instead, perhaps spurred on by Parise's sour memoires from last June, they found a well of energy somewhere. Koivu fed rookie Charlie Coyle late in the second for a goal that pulled the Wild back within one.
Koivu set up Parise on the third period power play that forged a tie. Koivu's second assist was his 19th point in March, a career best month for the Finnish captain. But to his linemates, it's the quality of the assists, not necessarily the quantity, which is enabling so much on-ice success.
"He puts pucks right on your tape, and gives me two or three good scoring chances a game," Parise said. "So for a winger that's a nice centerman to be playing with."
It was a beautiful spring evening in St. Paul before the game, and a few fans lingered outside the Xcel Energy Center's main entrance in the minutes before warmups, soaking in a few more rays of sun that have been so scarce in the long, cold winter we survived.
"Anyone selling tickets?" asked one scalper after another, any they got no reply. When they were asked what tickets were going for, there was no answer to be had, as nobody was selling. The defending Stanley Cup champs versus the red-hot Wild was the hottest ticket around these parts in a long, long time.
The 19,000-plus who got inside the rink heard announcements about what fans can do to "secure playoff priority" for the first time. That means the tickets, and the games, will likely get hotter as the calendar is flipped to April.
But none of that need worry the Wild for now. After a frantic week involving two trips to Dallas, two beyond-regulation wins at home, the end of a winning streak and the start of another, Parise and company have Easter Sunday off.
No practice, no ice time, no worries for a solid 24 hours, before the Blues come visit on April Fool's Day. Not all members of the team could agree, even in this season of the condensed schedule, that time off is a good thing.
"It's not easy lately with all of the games we've been playing, but you don't want to create any excuses. We're a team going through this and you'd rather play than practice right now. But it wasn't easy," Koivu said. "Every team is basically in the same situation. But when you come to the rink it's pretty much always a game day."
And for Parise, revenge is always sweet, even if it comes 10 months and a new team later.