Wild Douse Flames, Stretch Win Streak To Five
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Surging into and out of the Olympic break, the Minnesota Wild have created a significant cushion between them and their competitors for the two Western Conference wild-card playoff spots.
That's not enough. With five days before they play next, this was still a game they were worried about -- and had to win.
The Wild have 75 points, nine ahead of the cut, but they are off until Saturday. Then they will launch their final stretch of 20 games in 37 days.
Kyle Brodziak also scored, rookie Darcy Kuemper stopped 21 shots during his 15th start in a row, and the Wild raised their record at home to 22-7-2 while playing in front of their fans for the first time in 25 days.
Captain Mikko Koivu, back from a 17-game absence due to a broken ankle, skated on the second line with Dany Heatley and Charlie Coyle, apart from Parise for the first time.
Parise gave the Wild some insurance by camping in the crease and deflecting a shot past Reto Berra with 5:16 remaining for his 21st goal. Just 77 seconds later, Mark Giordano scored to bring the Flames back within a goal. But Kuemper hung on to raise his record to 11-3-2.
Kuemper has played so well in place of Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom that the Wild might not need to trade for a goalie before the deadline.
Mikael Granlund had two assists while playing in the NHL for the first time against his brother Markus Granlund, who was called up from the AHL last week by the Flames.
After a scoreless, sluggish and penalty-free first period, the pace picked up in the middle frame. Matt Cooke swooped in behind the net to poke the puck away from Berra. Brodziak crept toward the crease to corral the puck and knocked it in for the game's first goal.
Mike Cammalleri, playing perhaps his last game for the Flames with the NHL trade deadline looming on Wednesday, tied it 1-1 in the second period when Koivu's pass ricocheted across the slot to him for an easy tap-in that Kuemper had no chance to stop.
With Coyle screening Berra on a power play, Spurgeon sent a slap shot through traffic for the lead.
The Flames, buried in the Western Conference playoff race, could make some moves this week. Cammalleri scored for the first time since Jan. 6. He missed nine games during that stretch because of a concussion.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, as a guest of Wild owner Craig Leipold, watched from a suite.
Leipold took him earlier in the day to Target Field, where baseball’s Twins play, and TCF Bank Stadium, the football home of the University of Minnesota, for tours of possible outdoor game venues. The NHL put on six this season.
The Wild have long lobbied to host the Winter Classic, the original event held on New Year’s Day, but would take one of the Stadium Series games, too. Bettman said Leipold asks him “every day” about it. Bettman has assured the Wild they will be awarded an outdoor game but has not committed to a timeframe.
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