ST. PAUL, Minn. – Zach Parise cautioned against reading too much into the Minnesota Wild’s 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.
The Wild moved into a first-place tie with their Northwest Division rivals, recorded their fifth straight game with a point, and led for all but 24 seconds. But Parise didn’t bite when asked if it was a statement game.
“It’s hard to look at the standings all the time with just the way it goes, you go overnight from fourth to 12th,” Parise said after scoring two goals and adding an assist for his 25th NHL three-point game.
After 24 games marked by inconsistency and slow starts, the Wild still have a lot to prove before they are viewed as a serious playoff contender.
“We’re only halfway through, but I think it shows the way we’ve been playing a lot better lately and with a little more consistency,” Parise said. “Season doesn’t end today, playoffs don’t start tomorrow, but just for us to get up top … now we’ve got to respond and try to stay up there.”
Niklas Backstrom had 25 saves, and Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon also scored for the Wild, who won their fourth straight home game and beat the Canucks for the first time this season.
“Our guys were ready for this one, for sure,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We feel like we’re a team that’s on the up and going in the right direction, and we were looking forward to this chance.”
Cory Schneider made 28 saves, and Henrik Sedin and Chris Higgins scored for the Canucks, who fell to 1-3-2 in their past six games.
“It’s tough right now, we’re being tested and that’s why we need each and every guy in here to pull along,” Daniel Sedin said.
Vancouver came up empty in four power-plays and hasn’t scored a goal in its last 20 advantages. Daniel Sedin said it falls on him and his brother to get the power play back on track.
“We’re leaders on this team, and this is the game I think we could’ve gotten ourselves back into it if our power play’s getting off,” he said. “We’re two guys, we can make that happen.”
Despite struggling with slow starts all season, Minnesota needed only 24 seconds to take the lead when Parise kicked off a contentious first period with his 10th goal. It was Minnesota’s first opening-period goal in three games against Vancouver.
Things got testy with a slew of roughing, fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct calls midway through the period. Eight players were in the penalty box at the same time.
Cal Clutterbuck had to be restrained in the box when he saw Alex Burrows tale a few swings at Wild captain Mikko Koivu—over the head of the referee, who was separating them.
A minute later, Mike Rupp flipped Tom Sestito’s helmet to the ice before throwing him down as the two fought.
“Guys are sticking up for each other,” Yeo said. “It’s sort of that pack-of-wolves mentality that I really believe that this group has right now.”
Minnesota ended up killing two consecutive power plays and went up 2-0 when Matt Cullen slipped a pretty pass to Zucker in front of the net at 18:31. Spurgeon’s second-period goal made it 3-0 before Higgins’ one-timer from the right circle found its way through Backstrom’s pads to make it 3-1 at 7:51.
The Canucks pulled to 3-2 early in the third when the puck was deflected into the air and hit off Henrik Sedin’s leg into the net, but Parise added his second goal when he put the puck between Schneider’s skate and the post at 6:29.
“No we’re not happy about it,” Schneider said about the Wild moving into a first-place tie. “You don’t want to be chasing teams late in the year, but we can’t panic. It’s not time to panic yet. It is time to get some urgency and win hockey games.”
Notes: Minnesota has a power-play goal in a season-high four straight games, and six of seven. … Ryan Suter has a Wild season-best, seven-game point streak. … D Tom Gilbert (illness) missed his first game with the Wild. … Minnesota is 9-2-1 at home.