Wild wins big over Florida Panthers in Zach Parise’s season debut
The arrival of winger Zach Parise retooled the entire Wild lineup, delivering new combinations and stoking the intrigue about what the top nine could look like when winger Nino Niederreiter also gets healthy.
But in Parise’s season debut Tuesday after missing the first 39 games of the season while he dealt with a herniated disc and recovered from back surgery, it was the team’s division of depth players that shined — helping spark a 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers in front of 19,029 at Xcel Energy Center that improved the Wild to 10-1-1 in its past 12 games at home.
Center Matt Cullen scored two goals, bumping his career output to 699 points, while center Eric Staal also had a two-goal night. Cullen’s linemates (wingers Marcus Foligno and Daniel Winnik) each earned an assist, and third-pairing defenseman/frequent healthy scratch Gustav Olofsson also tallied a helper.
Other lines still brought pressure, especially during a first period in which the Wild got better in time.
Actually, the different combos seemed to flatter everyone.
The Joel Eriksson Ek-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund unit regularly gave the Panthers trouble.
Wingers Jason Zucker and Tyler Ennis, alongside Staal, each had chances when they were on the ice together. And Parise’s line with center Charlie Coyle and winger Chris Stewart was buzzing early.
But the trio that executed first was the fourth one.
Cullen opened the scoring 14 minutes, 21 seconds into the first when he put back a rebound as he was falling to the ice.
Only 1:56 into the second, Cullen served up another — this one a deflection off a Foligno redirection — for point No. 699.
Later in the period, Granlund temporarily scored when a puck bounced off his leg and behind goalie James Reimer. The play was reviewed, and the goal stood after video showed the puck entered the net legally.
But the Panthers then challenged to determine if the sequence was offside, and it was — wiping Granlund’s goal off the board.
Still, the period was dominated by the Wild, especially after Reimer left the game.
Granlund and Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad fell on Reimer with 8:55 remaining in the second, and he was replaced by Harri Sateri, who was making his NHL debut.
It didn’t take long for the Wild to capitalize on the newcomer, as Staal pounced on a rebound at 14:31.
Reimer returned to the crease, and Staal scored on him, too, slinging a shot by Reimer 2:39 after his first goal. Ennis assisted on both of Staal’s goals, and defenseman Jared Spurgeon amassed three helpers.
Overall, the Wild outshot the Panthers 19-2 in the second period — its best output for a single period this season — and finished with a season-high 41; all but three skaters registered a shot on goal.
Florida tested Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk more in the third period, eventually erasing his shutout bid at 3:40 when winger Jonathan Huberdeau completed a slick passing sequence, but that’s as close as the team would get. Coyle added an empty-netter with 3:05 to go to snap a 12-game goalless skid.
Dubnyk totaled 25 saves, while Sateri ended up with 13 after taking over for the third; Reimer had 23.
The Wild blanked on its lone power-play chance, while the Panthers went 0-for-2 — a much better display of discipline by the Wild after a recent rash of penalties.
And the energy not wasted shorthanded certainly seemed to come in handy in the offensive zone.