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Parise and Koivu help Wild douse Flames

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In need of a breakout night on the scoresheet, Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu got an old friend back just in time.

The Wild's reunited top line of Parise, Koivu and Charlie Coyle combined for seven points and was a plus-5 overall to lead the Wild to a 5-1 victory against the Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night.

Parise said earlier Tuesday that he and Koivu needed to play better and that Coyle, who teamed with the two veterans as a rookie last season to form perhaps the Wild's best line, could be just the man to get them going.

Coyle missed Sunday's 4-0 win against the New Jersey Devils and had played in only one of Minnesota's previous 13 games entering play Tuesday after suffering a sprained knee in the Wild's second game of the season.

"He's a strong guy who can separate and hold guys off. When you can do that, other guys are able to put themselves in a position where they can score goals," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of Coyle. "If you can't hang onto the puck and we're chasing or we have to go help, then obviously we don't have that opportunity."

It took the line just 9:07 to get on the board against the Flames after a sluggish start put the Wild in an early 1-0 hole.

Coyle stole the puck at center and fed a pass to the left corner in the Wild's offensive zone. Parise and Koivu won a battle for the puck as Parise circled behind the net and put a shot towards Flames goaltender Reto Berra. Berra stopped the initial shot but the rebound came free near the left post to Koivu, who roofed a backhander for his second goal of the season.

The trio struck again early in the second, this time on the power play, as Parise slammed home a rebound of his own shot in front for his seventh of the season at 6:28. Koivu earned the second assist on the play for his first multi-point game of the season.

"[Coyle] helped us a lot. the way he protects the puck, in the corner, he's good as being an out when we're scrambling in the corners," Parise said. "He plays with speed, he plays so smart, and makes room for us out there. He makes a big difference in our lineup. It's nice to have him back."

The Flames could not take advantage of three turnovers by the Wild early in the third period, and Minnesota made them pay by grabbing a 3-1 lead at 8:05 when Justin Fontaine skated from behind the net to the hash marks in front and banked his fifth of the season into the net off a defenseman. Fontaine's five goals are third among all rookies.

"We were getting shots, but when you go into the third period in a one-goal game on the road, you definitely want to take over the game," Flames forward Matt Stajan said. "We had a few good shifts, their goalie made some saves and then they kind of took the wind out of our sails once they got that third one."

Just 33 seconds later, Zenon Konopka made it 4-1, capping a 2-on-1 break with Torrey Mitchell by firing a wrist shot short-side past Berra. The goal was Konopka's first point with the Wild in his 53rd game with the team.

"It's been a little while. It's one of those things, the last few games, we've had so many chances and no pucks were going in the net," Konopka said. "Instead of getting frustrated, we kept working at it. I was pretty relieved to finally get one on the board. Hopefully they come in bunches but I wouldn't bet my life on it."

The Parise-Koivu-Suter combo struck again at 13:14 with a highlight reel goal that saw Koivu throw a no-look pass to Parise, who roofed his eighth of the season past a sprawling Berra.

The three-point effort was the 27th of Parise's career and 21st for Koivu.

"You always like getting those on your tape when the goalie is sliding the other way," Parise said. "It was such a nice play by [Koivu and Suter] and I just happened to be the recipient. That was a world-class pass by Mikko. That was a little bit of a gift."

Flames coach Bob Hartley absolved his rookie goaltender of blame for the loss.

"The goals that they scored, you could have taped Patrick Roy, [Ed] Belfour and [Martin] Brodeur together and we wouldn't have won that game," Hartley said. "They were so much better than us, they deserved the two points."

The Flames began the game like a team ready to win its second consecutive game on the road. After defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime Sunday night, Calgary fired the game's five shots on Wild goaltender Josh Harding, grabbing a 1-0 lead at 5:24 when Lance Bouma led a mini 2-on-1 break and fed a backhanded pass to Jiri Hudler in the slot for his sixth of the season.

"I thought we skated very well the first 10 minutes, then we basically gave [them] two goals on two turnovers," Hartley said. "We were still in the game, and then in the third period we just didn't give ourselves a chance to get back in the game. They were much better than us."

Berra, who made 44 saves in the win Sunday, kept the Flames in it through two periods but the Flames as a whole were overmatched as the third period wore on. He made 19 saves in the loss.

Harding stopped 24 of 25 shots to improve to 8-2-1. He has allowed 12 goals in his 12 games this season.

"I don't focus on all those games, truthfully. I just try and focus on the last game and learn what I can do better. I'm pretty critical of myself," Harding said. "I want to get better every day and that's what I'll look for tomorrow."

Calgary visits the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. Minnesota, which has won five of six games overall, is at the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Verizon Center in the first of a two-game Eastern trip.

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