Wetmore: Koivu, Parise spark first-line outburst in convincing win
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Wild has had a second line with scoring touch ever since Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund developed a working chemistry. Nino Niederreiter has played well enough to make that line unbreakable for head coach Mike Yeo.
But the first line hadn't yet settled into a rhythm, thanks in part to injuries, inconsistent play and the quiet start from captain Mikko Koivu.
That appears to have changed with Tuesday night's 5-1 victory against the Calgary Flames at the Xcel Energy Center.
Parise and Koivu each had three-point nights - Koivu's first multi-point game of the season- and Coyle tallied an assist. Sounds like a good night from the top line on a good team. But considering how the line has played recently, it's even more impressive and important.
Coyle suffered a sprained knee that kept him off the ice for a little more than three weeks. Koivu's scoring slumped so much that Yeo briefly shuffled the lines to separate Koivu and Parise - something that was previously unheard of since Parise joined the Wild last offseason.
Koivu acknowledged his scoring was down and that a change might be necessary.
"He's been playing well even though things haven't been going great for him offensively," Parise said Tuesday of Koivu. Regardless what his teammates and coaches will tell you, make no mistake, the Wild need Koivu to be a scoring option, in addition to his solid two-play and leadership.
That's why the way in which Minnesota won Tuesday was bigger than the two points it received in the standings. Koivu had two assists and a goal, after the Wild fell behind 1-0 early in the first period. They stormed back to score five unanswered goals to win when the other team scored first for the first time this season.
The five-goal burst was capped with a beautiful give-and-go feed between Koivu and Parise for Parise's second goal of the game, which sealed the result in the third period.
"You always like when you get those on your tape and the goalie is sliding the other way," Parise said."That was a world-class pass by Mikko; that was a little bit of a gift."
Getting Koivu going offensively would be a big boost for the Wild because they would boast four solid lines. And as Parise said Tuesday of Koivu, "it always does a lot for confidence when the puck goes in for you."
Perhaps it was no coincidence that it started clicking between Parise and Koivu on the night Coyle returned. Yeo said Coyle can do the work on the boards and behind the net that allows his line mates to get into scoring areas.
The big, physical scoring presence on the top line is a boon. It will admittedly take time to get Coyle back up to speed, but once that happens and if Koivu continues to his offensive roll, it's a mighty promising prospect for the Wild.
"He's been missing a lot of games so it will take a while [to have him back in full]," Koivu said of Coyle. "The way he played tonight after missing all those games, what can he be in a month? He's a huge help for us obviously and a big body like that ... he's going to have a bright future ahead of him and for our team right now it's going to be a huge help I'm sure."