ST. PAUL, Minn. – Matt Foy and Aaron Voros filled in well for Minnesota’s missing offensive threats.
Foy scored for the first time in more than two years, Voros and Brent Burns added goals for the second time in two games, and the Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 Sunday.
Stephane Veilleux also scored for Minnesota, which won for the fourth time in 12 games and moved past the Avalanche atop the Northwest Division. The Wild did it without injured forwards Pavol Demitra and Mikko Koivu.
James Sheppard, who centred a line with Foy and Voros in the Wild’s makeshift lineup, had two assists for his first career multi-point game.
The fourth-line trio logged the three lowest ice-time totals for the Wild, combining for just 23 minutes, 26 seconds of action.
“We’re just three young guys out there crashing and banging and trying to put pucks in the net,” Foy said. “Aaron provides some size and Sheppard provides the skills and the smarts on the line. All three of us just clicked well.”
Milan Hejduk scored for Colorado, which has been outscored 10-2 in losing two straight after going 7-1-1 in its previous nine games.
“The last two games, from our side, are probably the worst two games of the year. I don’t have an explanation for it,” he said.
It’s not like Minnesota entered the game on a roll. The Wild came off a 1-3 road trip against division foes when they were outscored 15-8.
Plus, the Wild played without two key players.
Demitra missed his fifth straight game – and seventh in nine – with a groin injury, and Koivu, the team’s second-leading scorer, sat out because of a cracked bone in his left leg after being slashed by Vancouver’s Mattias Ohlund on Friday. Demitra is to be re-evaluated Monday, and Koivu is expected to be out about a week.
“You definitely need more depth when you’re missing guys like that, so you’re going to have to have a whole team effort, which I think we had,” Voros said.
Ohlund was given a four-game suspension by the NHL on Sunday.
Minnesota, which gave up four first-period goals in Friday’s 6-2 loss at Vancouver, started much better against the Avalanche. The Wild took a 1-0 lead when Voros lifted a rebound over Peter Budaj at 15:42. The play was set up by Foy muscling his way to the front of the net before losing the puck. It was the second goal in two games for Voros, who made his NHL debut one week earlier in Colorado.
Known more for his physicality and toughness, Voros has scored on two of his first three NHL shots. He had four goals in 12 games with AHL Houston before being called up.
“It’s good to see them get goals and win the game for us, too,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. “They’re guys who come in every night and work as hard as they can work, and a lot of times they don’t have success.”
Foy, a healthy scratch nine times this season, gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead early in the second period when his weak shot from the right circle split Budaj’s pads. It was his first goal since Oct. 12, 2005. A sixth-round pick in 2002, Foy had two goals in 28 games before this season.
After Hejduk netted his fifth goal of the season, Veilleux scored on a breakaway. Burns slapped home a feed from Brian Rolston before the period ended.
Veilleux’s goal came seconds after Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding stopped Tyler Arnason on a breakaway.
Martin Skoula blindly fired the puck around the boards just as Veilleux was coming onto the ice for a line change behind the Colorado defenders. He gathered the puck in front of the Wild bench, skated to the left dot, and let go a slap shot that squeezed between Budaj and the post.
“That was a tough play,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a great opportunity for us to get ourselves right in the game, and the swing was huge. But that’s what the game’s all about. You earn your breaks as you go along.”
Notes: Harding finished with 27 saves. Budaj made 22. … In his first game of the season, Colorado RW Brad Richardson had two shots on goal in 16:37 of ice time. He injured his left wrist shortly before training camp. … Wild D Sean Hill was eligible to play for the first time this season, but again watched from the press box. While with the New York Islanders, Hill was suspended on April 19 for 20 games after testing positive for steroids. He has said he doesn’t know how the banned substance got into his system. … All four of the teams’ meetings have been on a Sunday, as will two of the final four.