ST. PAUL, Minn. — Zach Parise took advantage of getting a day off to rest and gave the Minnesota Wild‘s playoff chances a big boost.
Parise scored three times for his third hat trick of the season and added an assist as the Wild beat the Calgary Flames 6-2 on Thursday night, spoiling goalie Niklas Backstrom’s return to Minnesota.
Jared Spurgeon scored two power-play goals as Minnesota, which holds a three-point advantage over Colorado for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, matched a season high with its fourth straight victory.
After being held out of Wednesday’s practice for what interim coach John Torchetti described as “maintenance,” Parise got his three goals in a span of 11 minutes, 12 seconds of the first period, the fastest three goals by a player in franchise history.
Parise had totalled two goals in his previous 25 games and reportedly has been dealing with an unspecified injury.
“Of course,” Parise said when asked if he felt some relief following the three-goal output. “You work hard and when things aren’t going well, it’s tough. It feels good when it shifts the other way.”
Backstrom, the Wild’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts, made 23 saves for Calgary in his second game after being acquired by the Flames at the trade deadline. Johnny Gaudreau scored his 28th goal and rookie Jakub Nakladal added his second.
“It was weird, but you can’t really hide behind that,” Backstrom said. “You have to find a way to be out there and play at your best every night and be ready in every situation. At the end of the day you just have to find a way.”
Parise reached the 20-goal mark for the eighth time in his 11-year career by becoming the first Wild player to record three goals in a period. He became the first player with three hat tricks in the NHL this season.
“That’s something special in this league, and to do it in one period is pretty crazy,” said Spurgeon, who set a career-high with his ninth and 10th goals of the season. “You could tell from the first shift he was going out there. The team followed, that’s for sure.”
Backstrom was warmly greeted by his former teammates a day earlier when he arrived at the arena during practice. A day later, the reunion wasn’t as sweet.
A video tribute was shown on the Xcel Energy Center’s videoboard shortly after Parise’s second goal. Backstrom was a free-agent signing out of Finland in 2006 and went on to become the franchise’s leader in games played and started. Minnesota traded Backstrom and a sixth-round draft pick for forward David Jones.
Backstrom earned the start, in part, because he made 21 saves to win his Flames debut on Sunday in his first game since Jan. 13, 2015, for the Wild.
“I felt that then he settled down,” Calgary coach Bob Hartley said of Backstrom. “I didn’t want to pull him. Tonight, it was his show. It was in front of his fans. I thought that he deserved it. A tough start cost us, and then their power play went to work.”
Nino Niederreiter scored his fifth goal in seven games and goalie Devan Dubnyk had 31 saves for the Wild, who visit Colorado on Saturday.
“This might come down to the last period of the last game of the year, so that’s what we’re focused on,” Torchetti said. “But we’re game-by-game. We’re not worried about who our next opponent was when we’ve got a game in front of us.”
NOTES: Nine of Parise’s 22 goals this season (41 per cent) have come in three games. … Jason Pominville returned to the lineup for Minnesota after missing seven games with a lower-body injury. Thomas Vanek returned after being a healthy scratch for three straight games with Jason Zucker being a healthy scratch. … Calgary F Josh Jooris was held out with a lower-body injury. Freddie Hamilton was recalled from the AHL on an emergency basis and was in Thursday’s lineup.