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Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 5, Hurricanes 3

Niederreiter scores twice as Wild locks down home ice in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Wild.com's Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 5-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday night:

1. Zach Parise donned his father's helmet and gloves in a touching pre-game tribute, then scored a goal five minutes into the game.

The Wild wore 1967 North Stars jerseys during warmups on Tuesday, honoring the team that gave Minnesota its first taste of NHL hockey 50 years ago. 

It was especially cool for Parise, whose dad J.P. wore the same jersey number his son does for the Wild. That meant Zach was flying around the ice in a North Stars No. 11 sweater with the name 'Parise' on the back -- undoubtedly a special moment for him.

"It was great. I was happy my mom was able to dig it out of one of his old bags, and I think the guys got a pretty good laugh out of it. But for me it was special, and I know for my mom it was too, and my brother," Parise said. "Great colors on that thing and great logo. I know there was a lot of people here at the game and around the state, a lot of memories from the North Stars. And for me, that was a special time for our family."

Video: Zach Parise Wears Father's North Stars Gear

Zach, who lost his father to lung cancer a little over two years ago, wore his dad's white helmet and old North Stars gloves to complete the outfit. Garnished with the healing black eye sustained in a game last week, he even looked like J.P. skating around.

Then, just 5:39 into the game, Parise finished off a beautiful feed from Eric Staal (more on him below) seconds after he was robbed from in tight by his good buddy, Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. 

Video: CAR@MIN: Parise slams home Staal's slick feed

Post robbery, Nino Niederreiter dug out a loose puck behind the net and flipped a pass to Staal near the left circle. He quickly sent a pass to Parise at the right circle for a one-timer and a 1-0 lead.

It kickstarted a great night for the Parise-Staal-Niederreiter line, which combined for three goals and five assists.

"I'm pretty sure that they're going to stick together," quipped Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "They were moving the puck, skating through the neutral zone with speed and they're looking for each other. All three of them had good games. If they can continue to play like that and get confidence, boy, that's a pretty good line to have confidence this time of the year."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Postgame vs. Hurricanes

2. Speaking of tributes, the Wild (47-25-8) and Hurricanes (35-30-14) honored Staal for playing in his 1,000th NHL game last month in Winnipeg. 

Staal played in 909 games with Carolina until he was traded to the New York Rangers at last season's trade deadline. He played the final 20 games for the Blueshirts before signing a three-year contract with Minnesota over the summer. He's played in every game this season, including No. 1,000 on March 19, a 5-4 Minnesota loss in Winnipeg.

Video: Eric Staal 1,000th NHL Game Video Tribute

"It was really cool. Those are moments and memories you never forget," Staal said. "Sometimes, it can be awkward because there is so much focus on you individually when this is such a team game and team sport, but it's a special milestone and it's something I'm proud of. I love being out there and I love the opportunity to play this game.

"To be recognized and to have my family, parents and people that mean the most to me to enjoy it with, makes it even better."

The pre-game ceremony included a video tribute followed by the showering of gifts; Carolina enlisted Raleigh-based artist Pete Sack to draw up a framed drawing of Staal, including one pose of him hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2006. 

Other gifts included a trip for his family (from the team), a Rolex watch (from his teammates) and a $5,000 donation to the Staal Family Foundation from the Minnesota Wild Foundation. In addition, Staal received the traditional Silver Stick, presented to all players who reach the 1,000-game plateau.

The Wild also honored assistant equipment manager Rick Bronwell for working his 1,500th professional hockey game.

Video: Rick Bronwell: Pro Hockey Game No. 1,500

To learn more about "Tricky Ricky," who is an absolute beauty, check out Monday's feature.

Tweet from @mnwild: Those shirts �� pic.twitter.com/CQn8rEyMyT

Wild players wore special black shirts honoring Bronwell during game prep and meetings beforehand. 

3. Also, hockey was played. And if you like goals, Tuesday was your kind of game.

Minnesota and Carolina went back and forth in the first period, combining for six goals and heading to the first intermission tied at three. 

Parise's beauty was equaled less than two minutes later by Carolina's Lee Stempniak, who finished off a Jeff Skinner pass for his 16th goal.

Video: CAR@MIN: Schroeder lights the lamp with rebound tally

Jordan Schroeder gave the Wild the lead back at 11:05, finishing off a loose puck in front of Ward. The lead didn't last long, however, as Skinner finished off his first of two goals, ripping a one-timer past Devan Dubnyk three seconds into a power play.

Video: CAR@MIN: Niederreiter nets a deflected shot

Niederreiter gave the Wild its third lead of the night 1:57 later, but Skinner tied it a third time with 12 seconds left in the first period, hammering away at a loose puck Minnesota just couldn't seem to clear.

Things slowed down in the second frame, as Charlie Coyle scored his 18th goal at 7:25 of the period. Like Schroeder and Niederreiter's goals, it came after a concerted effort by Minnesota to get pucks to the net.

In the case of the first two, point shots hit traffic in front and the puck popped free at Schroeder and Niederreiter's feet, allowing for slippage into the net.

Video: CAR@MIN: Coyle goes to his backhand to put Wild ahead

"We don't mind those goals. When we play like that, we just get the puck in behind them," Coyle said. "A couple good faceoff wins and just going to the net. I mean, we'll take those garbage goals all day."

On Coyle's goal, Christian Folin's blast from the point was low to the ice, allowing for a pad save by Ward that fired right back to the crashing Coyle for a rebound tally. 

Niederreiter added his second of the night with 5:42 remaining in regulation. It was his second two-goal game in his past four. 

After a shaky first period, Dubnyk rebounded to stop all 12 shots he faced in the second and 12 more in the third to capture his 39th victory of the season.

"End of the day, you're tied 0-0 and again, it's an opportunity to go out there and feel good. I just let the puck come to me, I think that was the biggest thing," Dubnyk said. "I just wanted to make sure I went out there and wasn't chasing the game around because I hadn't seen many shots. It was nice to settle in. Those ones are always special at the end of it, to be able to buckle down after a first period like that."

The win secured a second-place finish in the Central Division for Minnesota and home ice advantage in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's been good the last week and a half, finding a little bit more of our identity and what we're going to need coming into the playoffs," Staal said. "We wanted to make sure that we locked down home ice here tonight and we were able to do that in the first round.

"This is a great building and a great atmosphere. We're a good home team and we gotta use that to our advantage. Keep trying to build our game and be smart about what we do with our bodies to be ready and perform at the top of our game once Game 1 starts."


Loose pucks

• The Wild moved to 47-25-8 and 102 points this season - the second-most wins and points in team history (48-26-8 for 104 in 2006-07).

• Niederreiter has 24 goals, tying his career high.

• Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return.

Martin Hanzal assisted on Coyle's goal. Hanzal has five points in his last five games and 12 points in 18 games with Minnesota.

• Schroeder now has career highs in games (36), goals (6), assists (7) and points (13) this season. 

• Attendance: 18,848


He said it

"Hopefully that'll be the difference for us. We played really solid earlier in the year here and we're starting to get that mojo back at home. I think any team that has success has success at home in the playoffs." -- Wild defenseman Ryan Suter on gaining home ice in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs


They said it

"It was a little bit of a rough start but emotionally it was good to get back out there. Obviously that first period wasn't what we wanted as a line but I think as the game went on it got better. You just think about all the thoughts and all the things you've gone through to get to this moment and the people that reach out and help and the support, it means a lot for all those people to get me to where I am now and I'm happy to be back her and just take it game by game and move on the next one." -- Hurricanes forward Bryan Bickell on playing in his first game since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis


Three stars

* Zach Parise

** Nino Niederreiter

*** Eric Staal

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