Parise's 3-point night leads Wild past Ducks
By Dennis Bernstein, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 4 Anaheim 2
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Despite being hit hard by injuries to star players over the past two months, the Minnesota Wild managed to keep afloat in race for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. With one of the big guns returning to form, Minnesota was able to shoot down one of the best in the NHL.
Winger Zach Parise scored a goal and added two assists, center Mikael Granlund had a goal and an assist and goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 31 saves as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 on Tuesday.
The Wild (29-20-6) extended their record in January to 9-3-1 with the victory and jumped ahead of the Vancouver Canucks into the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Wild coach Mike Yeo thought his team's effort was one of the finest of the season. In a season that has had its share of stress for Yeo, he was able to enjoy the result in the game's final moments.
"When you're standing behind the bench and you hear the players talking to each other, that's something you can't hear when you watch the game on TV," Yeo said. "To see how that battled, it was certainly a fun night"
The victory was the first over the Ducks since 2011 for the Wild and the first points registered by Parise in his third game back from injury. With veteran center Mikko Koivu sidelined with an ankle injury, a return to form by Parise is essential for the Wild to remain in playoff position.
"This is the best I felt since my return," Parise said. "This is a tough building to play in. We forced them into some bad spots and had the puck more. We always have to be better with our puck possession and tonight was a good step."
Anaheim (39-11-5) lost its second consecutive home game after going 23 games without a regulation loss at the Honda Center to open the season. Winger Dustin Penner and center Mathieu Perreault scored and goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped 29 Minnesota shots in the loss.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau gave credit to the winners and said his team should get used to seeing the best from each opponent for the rest of the season.
"Our performance over the first half of the season put a big target on our backs," Boudreau conveyed. "We are going to have to match their energy every night, no one is going to give us anything because everyone is battling for the playoffs."
The Ducks were emotionally spent after two victories against the arch-rival Los Angeles Kings last week and it showed in their game Tuesday. Center Ryan Getzlaf admitted that his play contributed to the loss.
"We played way too loose in our own end tonight," Getzlaf said. "My game was nowhere near where it needed to be and as a group we are all disappointed in the effort."
Entering the third period with a 2-1 lead, Minnesota put the game away with two goals in a space of 1:46. Winger Zach Parise scored his first goal since returning from injury. His 16th marker came off a deflection of defenseman Marco Scandella's shot from the point and center Erik Haula followed with a tip-in of his own with 11:39 remaining in regulation.
Minnesota jumped on top with a bad angle goal by winger Jason Pominville at 7:57 of the opening period. A shot by center Mikael Granlund was deflected to the left corner behind Hiller and Pominville thru a soft wrist shot toward the net that Hiller failed to track for his team-leading 21st goal of the season.
Anaheim prevented further damage by killing off consecutive penalties to defenseman Luca Sbisa followed by Hiller stopping center Kyle Brodziak breakaway attempt soon after the Pominville scored.
The Ducks evened the score at 18:13 of the opening frame when Penner ripped a slap shot past Kuemper for his 13th goal of the season. Getzlaf got possession behind the Minnesota net and found Penner, who delivered a one-timer with winger Corey Perry drawing the secondary assist.
The Wild grabbed their second lead of the night in the opening minute of the second period on the power play. Granlund potted his fourth goal of the season off a give-and-go with Parise at :13 with defenseman Ryan Suter earning the additional assist.
NOTES: Wild G Darcy Kuemper started his eighth straight game. ... Minnesota did not dress LW Jason Zucker and LW Stephane Veilleux. ... The Wild's 3-2 overtime loss in San Jose on Saturday was their first overtime loss since Oct. 5 against Anaheim. ... Ducks C Ryan Getzlaf played in his 607th game in an Anaheim sweater, passing Paul Kariya for fourth place in games played as a Duck. ... Anaheim scratched RW Tim Jackman, D Mark Fistric and C Daniel Winnik. ... Ducks D Luca Sbisa returned to the lineup for the first time since Nov. 23, missing 26 games due to a right hand injury.
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