Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-3 overtime loss against the San Jose Sharks:
The Wild played with heavy hearts tonight, as the team skated without one of its leaders, Zach Parise. The 30-year-old was with his father, J.P. — as he battles lung cancer — and family.
In his absence, Jason Zucker was placed on the top line with Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu. The 22-year-old made the most of his opportunity tonight, like he has all season long, with a career-high three points.
With the Wild trailing 3-2 in the third period, Zucker used a burst of speed to get to the crease area and finished a Charlie Coyle cross-ice pass. The adage in hockey is that if you want to score goals go to the net. On the play, the forward headed directly to the Sharks crease like a thirsty man sprinting towards a desert oasis. The goal forced an extra session.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the single OT point was all it pulled tonight. For the second-consecutive night, Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic used late-game heroics to lift San Jose over a Central Division opponent. Yesterday, he beat the Winnipeg Jets with 4.5 seconds left in the third period. In overtime, he went post-and-in on a high blast to beat Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper.
As if missing out on an extra point wasn’t disheartening enough after the team’s late comeback, defenseman Marco Scandella didn’t come out of the locker room for the third period. After the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo didn’t have an update on Scandella’s status.
On multiple occasions, Parise has spoken about how supportive his father was towards him, his hockey career and, most importantly, his development as a man. As if dealing with his father’s condition wasn’t enough, hockey is their bond, so it has obviously been a trying season. Tonight, Zach was there for his father, who has always been there for his son.
Here’s the statement from the Wild, released before the game:
Zach Parise will not play in tonight’s game against San Jose. The Wild supports his decision to be with his family as his dad, J.P., battles lung cancer and asks that their privacy be respected. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Parise family during this difficult time.
When a goaltender comes out of the net to play the puck, an oncoming forward hopes he flubs the clearing attempt. Throwing away the puck to a goal scorer is like chucking a big hunk of salmon to a hungry Grizzly Bear. Tasty. Tonight, Zucker was the beneficiary of a juicy turnover off the stick of Sharks’ goaltender Alex Stalock, and the forward devoured it.
The puck was cleared the length of the ice and Stalock came out of the crease to play the waved-off icing. As Pominville and Zucker raced towards him, the netminder looked about as comfortable as an angler fishing with a bear lurking on the riverbank. Sure enough, Stalock put the biscuit off Pominville and it landed right on the tape of Zucker. To add insult to injury, the goalie did manage to scramble back into the cage, but the Wild forward roofed it into the back of the net.
Zucker has shown his nose for the net this season, often by scoring with his wickedly quick release. The forward has a shoot-first mentality, much like Parise. On the team’s second goal, Zucker showed off his vision by finding a pinching Jared Spurgeon.
The play was set up by a textbook offensive zone cycle, as if the line had been practicing it for years. Koivu dropped the puck to Pominville, who chipped it down behind the net. Zucker used his speed and the goal as a screen to gain position on Sharks center Tommy Wingels. The Las Vegas product then made a pass into Spurgeon’s wheelhouse. The blueliner did the rest, roofing it short side over Stalock’s shoulder.
The Takeaways has been hard on the referees and linesmen of late, but tonight we’re going to give them some shine. National Hockey League stripes have the hardest jobs of all the refs in major league sport. Not only is hockey the fastest action to see and call, there are all kinds of objects that can harm them: the puck, sticks and players. When a ref drops a puck, the two combatants in the faceoff circle aren’t thinking about his frozen hands or shins being in harms way. They swing freely at the puck like six-year-olds playing whack-a-mole at the arcade.
Sure, fans cheer when one gets knocked to the ice, like when Nino Niederreiter took down ref Dan O’Rourke. But they put themselves in harms way every game, like linesman Ryan Galloway, who caught a puck in the side of the head and had to be helped off the ice by Wild Athletic Trainer Don Fuller.
Of course, when I go out of my way to be nice, they nearly blow it by calling an interference penalty on Thomas Vanek in a tie game with 2:02 left in the third. The lesson, as always, don’t show respect to authority figures.