Wild continues goal barrage with blowout win over Florida
Once hes ready to return from a lower-body injury, which could be soon, Wild captain Mikko Koivu looks poised to resume his normal spot alongside winger Zach Parise.
But whether that reunion is the right decision may stir debate.
Thats because the make-shift line of Parise with center Charlie Coyle and winger Nino Niederreiter has been terrific in Koivus absence, with Coyle and Niederreiter making a significant impact especially Niederreiter, who scored twice and assisted on another to spark a 5-1 win over the Panthers Thursday in front of 18,714 at Xcel Energy Center.
Since the unit was formed, Niederreiter has four goals in three games his longest point streak of the season.
While that production is important, its how Niederreiter has carried himself on the ice that seems more encouraging.
Hes used his legs to get around defenders, been a pest down low particularly in front of the net and has helped the Wild generate much more offensive-zone time to ease the burden put on the defense by the teams recent struggles.
This effort from Niederreiter spurred a rally by the Wild after it fell behind the Panthers.
Just 2 minutes, 20 seconds after puck drop, Florida opened the scoring when center Denis Malgin buried a rebound behind goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Soon after, the Wild had a few glorious chances to secure the equalizer.
Florida goalie James Reimer made a sprawling save to keep out a redirect from Parise off a centering feed from Niederreiter, and center Eric Staals attempt to get on the end of a Mikael Granlund pass went wide.
But with 4:38 to go in the period, Niederreiter finally converted on a one-timer that flew by Reimer.
After a sluggish start to the second, momentum started to shift in the Wilds favor following a strong penalty kill led by Dubnyk; the Panthers went 0-for-2, while the Wild never received a power play.
At 11:54, Niederreiter - as the screen in front deflected in a Ryan Suter shot; Suter finished with three assists.
Before the period ended, Staal atoned for his prior miss at 15:29 burying a Granlund feed from almost the exact same spot that he blanked on earlier. The assist was Granlunds 300th career point.
Defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who accumulated two assists, was instrumental in setting up the goal by sprawling to keep the puck in at the blue line.
Like it did Tuesday when it pulled away for an authoritative 7-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens, the Wilds offense continued to shine in the third.
And the same line - the Parise-Coyle-Niederreiter combination had a hand in both goals.
Only 1:02 into the period, Parise scored his team-leading 15th (which ties his output from last season) when the rebound from his shot bounced behind Reimer and rolled over the goal line. Niederreiter completed his three-point night on the play with an assist.
The Wild tacked on a fifth at 3:51 when defenseman Jonas Brodins shot scooted by Reimer while Coyle acted as a screen.
Parises assist on the goal signaled five points for that line, which finished a combined plus-11. The three boast seven goals and 14 points since they were united near the end of the 7-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers last Friday.
Reimer ended up with 21 saves, while Dubnyk had 30 to post consecutive wins since Nov.8 and 11.
It was the first time the Wild pocketed back-to-back victories since Nov.21 and 23.