ST. PAUL, Minn. – Minnesota is happy to have Chuck Kobasew back.
Kobasew had a hat trick and Andrew Brunette scored the winning goal on a power play midway through the third period Friday, leading the Wild past the Colorado Avalanche 5-3.
Owen Nolan also scored and Niklas Backstrom stopped 31 shots for Minnesota in the opener of a home-and-home series. Mikko Koivu had three assists.
“It’s nice to contribute. You want to be a part of it, especially offensively,” said Kobasew, who scored an empty-net goal with 17.9 seconds left to complete his second career hat trick. His first was Jan. 24, 2006, at Colorado.
It was his second game back after missing the previous four with an upper-body injury.
Known as a grinder with a scoring touch, Kobasew was acquired in a trade with the Bruins Oct. 18. He had 21 and 22 goals the past two seasons with Boston.
“He had a couple of other opportunities almost from the same area of the ice, in the middle. He just wasn’t able to get the shots off. Tonight he was rewarded with two really nice goals,” said coach Todd Richards.
Antti Miettinen has missed two straight games with an illness, allowing Kobasew to play on a line with Koivu and Brunette.
They probably aren’t about to be split apart anytime soon.
“I’m just trying to pick up on their tendencies and get them the puck,” Kobasew said. “Those guys are the skill guys and I let them make their plays and just try to find a spot where I can be open and be an option for them.”
So far, so good – albeit in just two games.
“He’s done a real good job trying to talk to us, try and feel us out, try to get into those positions where we can take advantage of his shot,” Brunette said. “If he can get himself into those positions he’s going to get a lot of chances.”
Kyle Quincey, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart scored for the Avalanche, 1-5-4 in their last 10 trips to Minnesota. Colorado has lost four of five overall.
“If we take it to them like they took it to us in the third, I think we come out on top,” said forward Matt Duchene.
Minnesota was far more aggressive in the final period, especially on its forecheck, which led to numerous quality chances.
Brunette finally broke through after taking a pass across the crease from Koivu and lifting the puck over a sprawled Craig Anderson. It was his team-leading ninth goal and sixth on the power play. Minnesota, which was 2 for 20 on the power play in its last five games, scored twice with the man-advantage.
Kobasew set up his first goal early in the second.
He knocked Quincey off the puck – and his skates – with a hit in the right circle. Enforcer Derek Boogaard corralled the loose puck, skated below the goal line and backhanded a pass to Kobasew alone in the slot, where he beat Anderson on the stick side. It was Boogaard’s first point since Dec. 19, 2008.
“The essence of our team is going to be gritty hockey,” said Wild defenceman Greg Zanon, who had two assists.
After Stastny scored on a rebound to tie the game, Kobasew took a feed from Brunette and again beat Anderson from the slot for a 3-2 lead at the 6-minute mark.
Stewart converted a 2-on-1 with Wojtek Wolski late in the period to tie the game. Wolski has five assists in his last six games.
Colorado nearly scored again when a shot from Cody McLeod was rolling on edge along the goal line, but in swiping at the puck in a rebound attempt, T.J. Galiardi inadvertently knocked the puck back to Backstrom.
“You’ve got to really want to put that puck in, and we didn’t,” said coach Joe Sacco. “Couple of turning points in the game right there.”
Quincey scored on a one-timer and Nolan on a rebound in the first period.
NOTES: Avalanche RW Milan Hejduk left the game with an apparent knee injury in the third period. … Colorado placed D Adam Foote on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 17 and recalled forward Chris Durno and defenceman Brain Fahey from AHL Lake Erie. Both were scratches. … Minnesota placed D Brent Burns (concussion) and RW Martin Havlat (hamstring) on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 18 and recalled D Jamie Sifers from AHL Houston, but he did not suit up. … Guillaume Latendresse, acquired Monday for Benoit Pouliot, played his first game for Minnesota. … The Wild have played a home game the day after Thanksgiving each year in franchise history, going 6-2-1.