DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche leaned on newcomer Greg Mauldin in their best offensive performance of the season.
It’s a trend that might have to continue for some time after the team learned star winger Chris Stewart broke his left hand during a second-period fight with Kyle Brodziak.
Mauldin, recalled from Lake Erie on Nov. 11, scored two goals to fuel Colorado’s four-goal burst in the second period, and the Avalanche had a season-high goals total to beat the Minnesota Wild 7-4 on Saturday night.
However, the game took a toll on the health of the Avalanche, who saw Stewart, John-Michael Liles and Daniel Winnik all sustain injuries.
Winnik left in the first period after being struck in the right leg by a puck. He left the ice under his own power but was limping noticeably and will be re-evaluated Sunday. Liles was dazed after sliding into the post and hitting his head midway through the second, but returned to the game.
Colorado coach Joe Sacco said it’s unclear how long Stewart, who has a team-leading 11 goals in 23 games this season, will be sidelined pending a re-evaluation of his injury by team doctors Sunday.
However, he said he did not fault Stewart for the way he was injured.
“Hockey is a game of emotion and things happen during the course of a game,” Sacco said. “Of course, you wish it didn’t happen. You never want to lose any player. And Chris is a big part of this team. But we’ll deal with injuries as they come. Somebody else will have to step up.”
On Saturday night, it was Mauldin, who also had two assists. The four points in a game are the most by an Avalanche player this season and a career high for Mauldin, who spent six years in the minors between his NHL debut with Carolina in March 2006 and his recall from Lake Erie by Colorado two weeks ago.
“After toiling in the minors for so long, you start to question yourself and then after I got a couple games up here, you get more comfortable and I start to tell myself, I can play at this level,” Mauldin said. “Grinding and playing with energy, I can do that for a team. A night like tonight, I’m not going to count on that every night. What I’m going to count on is my energy and my hustle.”
Sacco said that’s the kind of approach and attitude that will help the Avalanche weather the loss of Stewart.
Trailing 2-1 entering the second, the Avalanche tied it on Mauldin’s first goal of the night 2:45 into the period. They surged in front with a three-goal flurry over a 2:11 stretch, including Mauldin’s second goal at 7:50 of the second, in which he collected a rebound off the post and knocked it past goalie Niklas Backstrom.
The Avs regained the lead on Milan Hejduk’s power play score at 7:18 of the second. They pulled away to a three-goal advantage 1:21 later when Kevin Shattenkirk gathered in a loose puck along the boards near centre ice and skated just inside blue-line before firing a slapshot that beat Backstrom. Shattenkirk extended his points streak to six games, the longest by a rookie defencemen this season.
Backstrom was replaced by Jose Theodore after Matt Duchene scored the Avalanche’s seventh goal of the night at 6:49 of the third.
“He wasn’t sharp but the players in front didn’t help him,” Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. “I really liked our first period. Then the game gets away from us and we make a couple of bad decisions with the puck.”
Colorado scored 1:01 into the game, its quickest goal to start a game this season, when Paul Stastny put in a rebound off a shot by Shattenkirk.
But the Wild answered later in the first with a pair of goals to go in front. Antti Miettinen tied it up with at 14:19 of the first with his sixth goal of the season, and on the power play Matt Cullen beat Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj with a slapshot from just inside the blue-line.
David Jones added a goal for the Avalanche at 5:03 of third to offset Brodziak’s goal for the Wild at 14:22 of the second. Broadziak scored his second of the night at 13:58 of the third.
NOTES: Minnesota won five of the six meetings with Colorado last season, including two in shootouts. … The Avs’ previous season high for goals in a game was six, which they achieved twice against Calgary on Oct. 28 and St. Louis on Nov. 15. … The four goals in the second were the most the Wild have given up in a period this season.