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Five Takeaways From Wild Vs. Flames

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

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 6-2 win against the Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center.

FIRST TAKEAWAY

And the ball keeps rolling. Though now it rolls into elevated territories in a physical and metaphorical sense.

The objective for the Wild on Thursday was to focus on the Calgary Flames, and only the Calgary Flames. Six goals-for and two-goals against later, and the two points the Wild made its mission to earn were deposited into the standings.

"We know how big points are right now," Jared Spurgeon said. "We can’t let a game slip by us. We’ve learned that from a couple in the past where we’ve maybe relaxed a little bit too much."

But the focus on Thursday, and the vocal emphasis on said focus was because of what's looming: A Saturday showdown with the Colorado Avalanche with one of the closest setups you can get to a playoff game prior to game number 83.

Now the Wild can focus on the Avalanche, talk about Colorado, and officially, vocally, shifts its focus.

"I haven't even thought about the Colorado game until tomorrow," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said.

Minnesota took care of business on its home ice, not letting distractions or trap games become part of its lexicon. That's eight points for the Wild out of a possible eight in its past four.

At a time when stockpiling points is priority number one, the Wild has been proficient in doing so of late.

That's the Wild's third four-game winning streak this season, all under Torchetti. A Colorado loss Thursday to the Philadelphia Flyers means the Wild leads the Avalanche by three points, with Colorado having played one fewer game.

And now the Wild gets set for a crucial meeting with one of its biggest rivals, and a chance to widen that gap.

"We know the importance of it," Zach Parise said. "We didn’t want to overlook tonight’s game and we did a good job of not doing that. Now we can start getting ready for that big one."

SECOND TAKEAWAY

Parise had been doing all the right things the past few games. He had been getting shots on goal, generating scoring chances, but just not finding the back of the net.

It happens. Goal-scoring in the NHL is inherently streaky. Parise just needed a bounce.

He got it away from the rink before the Wild took on the Flames, and then opened the floodgates in the game's first 20 minutes.

Parise took a maintenance day on Wednesday, not participating in the Wild's practice. According to his head coach, he spent the day with his kids, got a new trampoline, getting some rest.

Whether he bounced on it or not is unconfirmed, but what everyone saw on Thursday was a goal-scorer busting out, getting the on-ice bounces and a first period hat trick.

"You work hard and when things aren’t going well, it’s tough," Parise said. "It feels good when it shifts the other way."

It was Parise's third hat trick of the season, the quickest he's potted three goals in a game in his career, which he's now done a total of five times. Parise also now leads the Wild with 22 goals.

"It's the law of averages," Torchetti said. "He's a great player, and things started going. His battle-level was up there, and his compete-level (was up). He was in good situations his past few games."

His first of the game, a quick backhand-to-forehand flip from a sharp angle, was his 20th of the season, the eighth time in his 11-year career he has done so. It was also his 100th career goal for the Wild.

"It’s great to see," Dubnyk said. "The nice thing about him is when he’s not scoring you still want him on the ice all the time. He’s still effective, he still plays the right way and works. He still creates a lot of stuff even if the pucks aren't going in for him. It’s nice to see him get a few tonight and hopefully continue that.”

The next two were similarly scored from in close, but off different kinds of plays. Parise snuck a backhand shot, his second, just inside the far post off the rush. The hat trick goal, on the power play, came when Parise redirected a Suter shot from atop the crease.

Parise is now the only player in the NHL with three hat tricks this season. When it rains, it pours.

"It’s something special in this league and to do it in one period is pretty crazy," Spurgeon said. "You can tell from the first shift he was going and the team followed, that’s for sure."

THIRD TAKEAWAY



To stick with the power play, for the second straight game, Minnesota made good on a man-advantage really needing to capitalize on said opportunities.

The Wild connected three time on the power play on Thursday, first by Parise, and then when Spurgeon scored in the second to re-establish a two-goal lead at 4-2. Spurgeon added an insurance marker late in the third to make it 5-2.

What all three goals had in common was the Wild just getting pucks to net. Suter picked his head up on the first, saw an opportunity to shoot (and a teammate parked in front), and released the puck.

"We're being simple," Spurgeon said. "Zach and [Charlie Coyle] are being simple getting to the front of the net, and not letting the goalie see the puck."

On Spurgeon's first goal, Suter took the puck off the half-wall, walked it toward the middle of the blue line, and again threw it into traffic, eventually sitting down at the side of the crease for Spurgeon.

"You look at a lot of the power plays around the league that do score a lot of goals and it's just a shot and a rebound," Spurgeon said.

Much like his first, Spurgeon found himself in the right place at the right time on goal number two, pouncing on a loose puck to score his 10th of the season, a career best.

"You always want to help the team out no matter what it is," Spurgeon said. "It's nice for that to happen, but as long as we're winning, everyone is happy."

The Wild also now has 12 double-digit goal scorers this season, leading the NHL.

That's also the second time this season the Wild has scored three power play goals in a single game.

FOURTH TAKEAWAY

Brandon Bollig looked like he was in all alone. With the puck on his stick, the Flames forward broke free from the pack, acres of open ice standing between him and Devan Dubnyk.

That was at least, until he was caught by Thomas Vanek.

"We just talked about playing a two-way game," Torchetti said in regards to Vanek on Tuesday after morning skate. "When he gets the opportunity, I'm sure he'll come back and be a better player for us."

Vanek returned to the lineup on Thursday after being a healthy scratch the past three, and that message and conversation certainly looked like it was received.

In the first period, Vanek turned a puck over at the offensive blue line only to turn around, sprint, and stop Calgary before it could make its way over the red line.

The play in the second period, catching Bollig, brought the crowd to its feet, and was a sound defensive play anchored in pure hustle and a commitment to defense.

Vanek still had some Vanek-of-old in him as well, nearly setting up a goal sequence in the second when he dropped a no-look pass to David Jones, who set up Mikael Granlund on an empty-net.

FIFTH TAKEAWAY

Niklas Backstrom spent the first decade of his NHL career in Minnesota. And for a decade, Backstrom's hard work, selflessness, and not to mention success endeared him to his teammates, coaches, and fans.

It was what his Wild teammates recalled and lauded him for in the days leading up to his return to Saint Paul. It's what his new head coach waxed poetic on Wednesday about, with the Flames practicing at Xcel Energy Center.

And it's what 19,032 people stood up and vigorously cheered in the first period when the Wild recognized Backstrom, its franchise leader in wins, saves, shutouts, games played with a video tribute.

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