Parise's equalizer, shootout goal leads Wild past Leafs
By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
Wild 2 Maple Leafs 1
St. Paul, MN -- Patience was as important a weapon as offense for the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.
Trailing and frustrated by Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier for much of the game, the Wild got a pair of goals from winger Zach Parise to eke out a win. Parise scored in regulation and in a shootout as the Wild rallied for a 2-1 victory.
Down 1-0 late in regulation, the Wild (11-4-4) got a goal from Parise late in the third to tie it and goals from Parise and right winger Jason Pominville in the shootout to improve to 8-1-2 at home.
Left winger Mason Raymond scored a second period power-play goal for Toronto (11-6-1), which got 33 saves from Bernier but could not hold on for the win.
"I think we were patient with our game. We didn't panic, even though we were down for most of the game," said Pominville, as the Wild improved to 5-0-1 in their last six. "We had some looks. We were outshooting them. (Bernier) made some good saves. We just weren't able to find a way. We knew it was probably going to be one that was around the crease, and that's what happened. We were able to win it in a shootout. To give up a point against the Eastern Conference, it's not that big of a deal for us as long as we get two."
Minnesota was thrown an unexpected challenge early in the game, when starting goalie Niklas Backstrom was injured in a collision in front of the net. That forced Josh Harding, who had been battling an illness all day, to come on in emergency relief. Harding made 19 saves, including stopping Raymond and center Phil Kessel in the shootout.
For Wild coach Mike Yeo, it was all about preaching patience when his team was down and frustrated.
"Even the guys that were power-play guys were coming back saying, 'C'mon, we still got lots of time,' talking, saying the right things and these are the leaders of your team," Yeo said. "I've been part of many games where you have something like that and frustration creeps in and it's real easy to have some type of letdown or start to deviate or get away from staying with it, trusting it, and they didn't. Who gets the goal for us? It's the same guys that are saying the same thing."
After a scoreless first period, Toronto finally broke the deadlock with a power-play goal midway through the second. Harding gloved a long range shot by defenseman Morgan Rielly, only to have the puck pop out of his glove and right to the stick of Raymond, who was crashing the net. Raymond made a quick stick move to tuck the puck behind Harding. It was the sixth goal of the season by Raymond, and snapped a three-game pointless streak.
"It's definitely tough," said Bernier, now 7-4-1 this season. "I think they scored with four minutes left in the game or something like that. But they're a good team in their building and at least we came up with one point. We've just got to move on."
Backstrom, who had been in uniform but on the bench for the Wild's previous five games while Harding went on a 4-0-1 run, stopped the Leafs first three shots on goal before he was run over in the crease by Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. While Kadri served a goalie interference penalty, Backstrom stayed in the game until the next timeout before being replaced by Harding.
"He took a good shot," Harding said. "When he got up, I thought he was going to be OK after that. They told me to get ready. As a backup, you have to do it."
Kadri was tossed from the game in the third period after another hit to the head of a Wild player. This time his collision with center Mikael Granlund along the boards in the Toronto zone earned a match penalty and a five-minute Wild power play.
"I just looked at it; he made initial contact with the shoulder and the kid had his head down, he didn't have his arms up, he ran into the player," said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. "Granlund snapped his head back and obviously, the referee saw it differently, and obviously, with a five-minute match penalty, it'll be reviewed."
The Leafs allowed just one Minnesota shot on the extended man-advantage, drawing boos from the home crowd. Minnesota finished 0-for-5 on the power play.
NOTES: Wednesday marked the 300th career game in a Maple Leafs uniform for RW Phil Kessel. It was also a homecoming of sorts, as he played one season of collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota. ... Wild D Clayton Stoner's layoff due to injury was brief. Stoner was back in the lineup Wednesday after missing Minnesota's game at Carolina on Saturday due to a leg injury. The news was not as good for another Wild player, as D Keith Ballard was placed on the injured reserve list with an upper-body injury. ... Leafs RW Colton Orr returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing Toronto's previous two games with an undisclosed injury. ... Wednesday's game was just the fifth Toronto played in Minnesota since the Wild entered the NHL in 2000, the fewest by any opponent. ... The Leafs current three-game road trip concludes Friday when they visit the Buffalo Sabres. Minnesota is in the midst of three in a row at home, and will host the Florida Panthers on Friday.