The Minnesota Wild took a 4-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday night, a night marked by Zach Parise’s first game against his former team. Last year’s lockout shortened season witnessed no interconference play prior to the Stanley Cup finals, so this was the first contest between the teams in nearly two years.
Parise had a strong game, firing three shots on goal, and recording an assist after a cross ice feed from Ryan Suter. Parise threw the puck into a mess of bodies in front of the net manned by Cory Schneider, puck bounced around and Torrey Mitchell was ultimately deemed to have scored his first goal of the year. Mitchell saw time on the first line during the game, taking over for Justin Fontaine – who had started out playing alongside Parise and Mikko Koivu.
Nino Niederreiter recorded three assists in his first career multi-point game. Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville also found their way into the goal column, with their first and tenth goals of the season respectively. The Granlund-Pominville duo has been quite potent as of late, with a combined 16 points for the Wild over a 5-1-0 stretch.
Dany Heatley, who has been struggling recently, notched his second goal of the season (his first with a goalie in net) amidst a pretty impressive game. Heatley had a few chances, and was able to tip in a Keith Ballard point shot to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer made the move to pull Schneider for the extra attacker while down by three goals in the third, but the move did not prove fruitful, as Pominville scored the empty-netter to secure the victory.
Jonas Brodin’s game was of note, as there were a few plays where he did not look sharp. Two passes early in the game missed their targets and sailed the length of the ice. Perhaps they could be attributed to the fishbowl visor he has been donning since suffering a broken cheekbone against the Nashville Predators on October 22nd. Goldfish are said to have short memories, and perhaps Brodin did as well, as he got over these early game blunders and played well for the rest of the contest.
The game also marked the NHL debut of Devils prospect Jon Merrill. The 6’3’’ defenseman logged only 1:16 of ice time before leaving the game due to an injury. Merrill was skating into the corner after a puck, with Mitchell on his tail, and wound up going hard into the boards. Merrill looked shaky getting up, and left quite a bit of blood on the ice. While Mitchell did receive a minor penalty on the play, there was no malicious intent, and it is hard to tell whether Mitchell’s stick actually attributed to Merrill going down. Merrill also did appear to grab Mitchell’s stick immediately before colliding into the boards.
Wild goaltender Josh Harding recorded a 19 save shutout, and saw his record improve to 7-2-1. This goes along with a .950 save percentage and a 1.10 goals against average. Although Harding wasn’t tested too much, he looked solid and had to make a few pretty big saves. The first period was especially trying for the Wild netminder, as the Devils came out of the gates controlling most of the play. After killing off three two-minute Devils powerplays (all off first period infractions), the Wild were able to find their stride and move up into third in the Central Division.