The crowd came to its feet as goaltender Cam Talbot coasted to the bench late in the third Monday night, giving the Edmonton Oilers an extra skater and the Minnesota Wild an empty net in which to shoot.
The puck finally found its way to Zach Parise in the Wild’s zone. Parise appeared to size up the empty net from inside his own blue line before flicking the puck harmlessly to center and skating to the bench.
With two goals to his name already Parise made the smart play, avoiding a potentially costly icing call with the Oilers down 2-0 and pressuring, but denying the crowd, and himself a third goal. Joel Eriksson Ek eventually added the insurance goal.
It would have been Parise’s first hat trick since March 24, 2016.
But while Parise came up just short of a natural hat trick while powering the Wild to a playoff-clinching win, his play down the stretch has been crucial for injury-depleted Minnesota.
Amidst concerns about his health and age — Parise will turn 34 this summer — the veteran forward has rediscovered his game with the Wild pushing for a playoff spot in a crowded Western Conference.
After missing the first half of the season and struggling out of the gate in early January, Parise has been a point-per-game player in 16 games since March 1. He has 12 goals and three assists over that span, has been riding a seven-game point streak since March 19 and leads the Wild in scoring over their last 10 games with eight goals.
Parise has been particularly effective when paired with Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu, a unit that has produced during his recent surge. Koivu has the primary assist on four of Parise’s 12 goals since March 1, while Granlund has four as well.
Parise and Granlund have been a lethal combination lately. Granlund had the primary assist on three straight Parise goals heading into their win over Edmonton.
Parise has 15 goals in 40 games (.375 per game), his best rate since he tallied 33 goals in 74 games in 2014-15 (.445).