Following Wild games, Content Coordinator Evan Sporer will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at the Wild's 2-1 overtime loss against the Avalanche.
It was coming for Zach Parise; it was only a matter of time.
In his sixth game returning from a sprained MCL, Parise has gradually looked better and better, and on Monday, he got back on the score sheet in Parisean fashion.
His line had generated good zone time all game, and with 6:09 remaining in the third period Parise went to the front of the net (as Parise does), and got three whacks at a loose puck before he pushed it past Semyon Varlamov.
"I felt like I've been playing well," Parise said. "To score or not, I felt like I've been playing some good hockey."
It was difficult to categorize Parise as snake-bitten in his small sample of games post-injury, but that kind of goal — going to the net and putting your head down — is certainly one that can get the ball rolling.
The sequence began for Parise making a play on the cycle below the goal line, and then curling out to the circle after moving the puck, and finally going to the net.
"Our line has generated a lot of good chances, we're making good plays and we're supporting each other," Parise said. "It's nice to get rewarded, but leading up to today, I think I've been playing well."
Parise, who had the hat trick on opening night to will the Wild to a 5-4, comeback victory, came up clutch in the third period again in Denver with his team trailing.
"We have a couple guys that could use a goal right now, Zach is one of them," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "He's been pushing hard."
Yeo talks about the Wild having a trust in its game, and Monday was a good example of what he means.
That wasn't a sexy game, one chalked full of highlights or quality scoring chances.
The Wild slogged its way through some tight checking, physical hockey, and it was an easy scenario to get discouraged in, or deviate from that plan.
Yeo did say he thought the Wild could have benefited from trying to push the pace, and in certain instances, could have taken advantage of some of the space Colorado conceded.
"I felt there was ice available for us, and if we were there a little quicker to take it … we were fine, but we weren't as good as we could have been," he said. "They had the same structure last game, but we did a better job of quicker attacks, quick ups before they get set into position, quick to take our ice when there was ice available, where tonight we just let the game slow down."
What the Wild didn't do was completely open up and abandon its structure after falling behind 1-0. With how congested the neutral zone was, Ryan Suter said the opportunity was there.
"It was just tight. No one wanted to make a mistake. It seems like it was all in the neutral zone," he said. "You're definitely tempted to cheat for sure. But it was just one of those games, low scoring, we knew it was going to be like that, and it was like that all night."
The first period had all the ingredients for the Wild to play a difficult one on the road.
Coming off a 3-0 loss, and a four-game road trip, the Avalanche was returning home, and was bound to play with more energy. Add in that prior to the game, Colorado honored its 20th Anniversary Team, it added more oomph to the Pepsi Center crowd.
That ceremony pushed puck drop to 7:21, so there was a lot of waiting for the Wild, who remained in the locker room during most of the pregame.
All that being said, the Wild continued its stingy defensive play, allowing six shots on goal in the period, and didn't give Colorado much time or space on the puck.
The Wild knew what it was up against, and Yeo said it prepared for a strong push from Colorado from the opening puck drop. But the Wild certainly had enough in the first 20 minutes to counter Colorado's return home.
The Wild's fourth line is doing the things that made it so effective early in the season.
It starts with having all of its pieces back — this was the fourth game the line has been back at full-strength — and the shifts it takes at even-strength are a great example of what a fourth line can do to be effective.
Early in the game, with a defensive zone faceoff, and the Avalanche getting last change, Yeo put out the line knowing very well Colorado could counter with its big guns. Colorado did, and the Wild's fourth line averted any danger, winning a faceoff at center ice before Colorado changed lines.
On most of its shifts, Chris Porter, Erik Haula, and Ryan Carter spent time in the Avalanche's zone. If those sequences consisted of cycling the puck along the wall, or shots on goal, they didn't consist of the Avalanche spending time in the Wild's end.
The talk after morning skate was to continue to make life easy for the goaltender. Darcy Kuemper, starting in place of the injured Devan Dubnyk, had a strong game, and got some help from the five skaters in front of him along the way.
And for the most part, that was the case. The Wild had another structured defensive effort, organized in the neutral zone and doing the things to not allow Colorado's superstars to play with a full head of steam.
"A lot of neutral zone play, and it seemed like they were passing up a lot of shots, and just trying to make that extra play," Kuemper said. "It resulted in a lot of standing around, and you do your best to stay in it."
On one of the rare breakdowns, Kuemper answered the call, making a nifty save on Andres Martinsen in the first period. As Martinsen drove toward the crease, he attempted to flip the puck across the grain and over Kuemper. Using just about all of his wingspan, Kuemper reached back and got a piece of the puck, before it rolled down his back and out the other side.
It's been the case for the past four games for Minnesota, who along the way set a new franchise record for a shutout streak, which ended at Pepsi Center at 178:52.