ST. PAUL, Minn. – Games between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche are usually low-scoring, grind-it-out affairs.
Not this time. Paul Stastny had two goals and an assist, and the low-scoring Avalanche broke out for a 6-5 win over the Wild on Monday night.
Marek Svatos, David Jones, T.J. Hensick and Milan Hejduk also scored for Colorado, which entered the game as the second lowest scoring team in the Western Conference. The six goals were a season high for the Avalanche and the 11 total goals were the most in a game between the two teams.
“You don’t expect that. The last few years I’ve been here it’s been 1-0, 2-1, 3-2,” Stastny said. “We just went with it. All four lines were playing well.”
The Avalanche (12-12-0) had a 20-6 advantage in shots midway through the second period and capitalized on several Wild turnovers and miscues to build an insurmountable lead.
Hejduk, Hensick and Stastny scored three straight goals in the second off Minnesota turnovers to give Colorado a 6-3 lead. The offensive outburst was even more surprising since it came against the Wild, the NHL’s toughest team to score against.
“Worst two periods that I’ve seen,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “We made so many mistakes there in the first and second and we lost confidence a bit.”
Stastny’s last goal in the second proved to be the winner after Minnesota’s Brent Burns scored with six minutes left in the third to cut it to 6-5.
Burns’ goal held up after a replay showed he did not interfere with Colorado goalie Peter Budaj before the puck crossed the line.
A bouncing puck off the stick of Wild forward Benoit Pouliot went in the net a few seconds after time expired in the third period, causing the Minnesota fans to groan in disbelief and Lemaire to laugh.
“Yeah, that’s funny,” he said. “Two more seconds and we’re OK. But we got what we deserved.”
Minnesota needed the late surge after looking dazed for much of the first two periods. The only time the Wild (14-8-1) looked sharp through two periods Monday was on the power play, where it scored three times.
Avs coach Tony Granato credited his skaters for forcing many of the Wild mistakes.
“If you look at puck possession, time of possession, scoring chances and battles won and lost, I think we controlled that pretty much from start to finish,” he said. “Our speed was good tonight, and our support away from the puck was good as well.”
Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored twice and Mikko Koivu and Owen Nolan each scored. Both of Bouchard’s goals gave Minnesota a temporary one-goal lead. Nolan’s goal cut the Avs lead to 6-4 before the second intermission.
Josh Harding replaced Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom to start the third period. Bakstrom entered Monday with a 2.15 goals against average and was one of the main reasons for Minnesota’s early season defensive success.
Lemaire made it clear he didn’t think the high score was all because of Backstrom.
“If Backstrom hadn’t been good tonight, they would’ve scored 10,” he said.
Colorado continues to scratch out wins despite missing two of its core players.
The Avs have won three of four and remain competitive in the conference despite playing without Adam Foote (back) and Joe Sakic (back) for most of November. Both players did not make the road trip and will be re-evaluated this week.
Meanwhile, Colorado needs to keep finding ways to keep scoring goals and staying relevant in the always tight West.
“We’re back to .500, now we need to go from here,” Stastny said. “I thought earlier we were playing well the last couple of games and we could get a string of wins but we got a big one here.”
Notes: The Wild named defenseman Kim Johnsson captain for December. The veteran Swede leads the Wild in time on ice (24:55) and has eight points. It will be Johnsson’s first stint as captain since signing with Minnesota in 2006. … Colorado is finishing up a stretch of nine of 12 games on the road and hasn’t played consecutive home games since Nov. 6-8. … This was the 300th regular season game played at the Xcel Energy Center. … Six was a season high in goals allowed for Minnesota. … Wild centre Eric Belanger returned from a lower body injury and skated in his 500th game.