There were many key moments that defined the Minnesota Wild's 2015-16 season. Wild.com will take a look at some of the most important.
Thursday, October 8, 2015 — It’s rare that a season is made or lost on Opening Night, and while that wasn’t the case for the Minnesota Wild, something very important did happen during game one of the 2015-16 season.
With the Wild and Colorado Avalanche jockeying for eighth place and the second wild card into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference down the stretch, each meeting between the Central Division rivals that much more important.
A regulation loss creating a four-point swing in the standings, the pendulum of success sat firmly in the Wild’s airspace after taking two points from the Avalanche in Denver to open the season.
And it was the Wild’s most potent goal scorer, and one of it’s key veterans who led a dramatic comeback at Pepsi Center to secure that victory.
With the Avalanche celebrating 20 years as a franchise, to go along with opening night introductions, the Wild waited in the bowels of the arena during an extended pregame. Forced to sit-and-wait for so long, Minnesota was even permitted a brief, extra warm-up period prior to puck drop after the Wild came out of the locker room and the conclusion of the pregame.
When the game did officially start though, it was the Avalanche that looked the part of a fired up, celebratory home team. A 20-minute blink later, and Colorado was ahead 3-0.
Though Zach Parise scored in the second period to cut the Wild’s deficit to 3-1, Colorado re-extended its advantage to three goals 72 seconds later, setting the stage for a 4-1 Avalanche lead going into the next intermission.
What happened next, in a vacuum, did not clinch the Wild a playoff berth, nor would its non-existence have been a death sentence. What it did do though was, set the tone for a season undoubtedly characterized by “comebacks.”
Parise scored his second of the game just over five minutes into the third, making it 4-2. Just under two minutes later, Nino Niederreiter popped home a loose puck from above the crease to make it 4-3.
Officially “a game,” Thomas Vanek scored the third unanswered Wild goal in a span of 4:09, completing the comeback, tying the game at four-all.
And yet, no comeback is really complete without an ending, which, on that night, was provided by Parise.
With the Wild on a power play five minutes after Parise’s goal opened the third period scoring to make it 4-1, Parise, who had never recorded a hat trick in a Wild sweater, put an exclamation point on a dramatic night, pounding in his third of the game from above the right circle to make it 5-4 Wild.
Four goals, three-hundred and seven seconds of game time, and a victory over a division rival that made all the difference in the standings months later with the Wild and Avalanche clawing for one available playoff spot.
What It Looked Like
What Was Written
From the recap: Parise started Minnesota's four-goal third period at 5:07 and finished it with a power-play goal at 10:14, giving the Wild their first lead of the game. The go-ahead goal came when he beat Semyon Varlamov with a one-timer from just above the right circle off a Ryan Suter pass with Gabriel Landeskog off for interference.
"We moved it around really well right from the break," Parise said of the winning goal. "A good bump back by Mikko [Koivu] to get it in the zone and we were able to get in our positions and set up. That's how we've been practicing it."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Parise joined Marc Chouinard as the only Wild players to get a hat trick in a season opener. Chouinard did it Oct. 5, 2005. It was the 49th season-opening hat trick in NHL history.
"We've had some pretty entertaining games with these guys," Parise said. "They're fast and they're skilled. It was two really good teams playing and it was entertaining. It was rewarding for us to play better in the third period and sneak out with a win."
From Five Takeaways: In those times of adversity, you look toward your leaders to dig you out of tough spots, and Parise did just that with a banner night.
His first goal was s scored on a wrist shot after having earlier hit that post. He went back to his bread and butter with no hesitation. Goal number two came after Parise took a big open-ice check earlier in the shift, popped up to his feet, and went to the front of net.
"What can you say?" Yeo said. "That's what we've come to know with Zach. We use the word relentless an awful lot, and that was a good example of that."
The hat trick goal — fittingly the game-winning goal — , which was met by some hats on the ice in the visiting Pepsi Center, was a seed from the right circle on the power play. The puck movement during the sequence that led up to that goal was consistent with the power play success Minnesota had in the preseason.
“We moved it around really well, right from the break-in getting it in,” Parise said. “That's how we've been practicing it, and the more we do it, the better we're going to get at knowing where each other are. That's kind of what made that goal happened: We know where the other guy is going to be right now.”
Parise helped will the Wild back into the game, and all the way to two points. The hat trick was his first as a member of the Wild.
What It Sounded Like
What Was Tweeted