ST. PAUL, Minn. – This is why the Minnesota Wild gave out those 13-year, $98 million contracts to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer.
For the passing ability, the aggressiveness, the leadership and the poise. For games like these.
Mikko Koivu had two goals, Suter had a season-high three assists and Parise added two to lead the Wild past the Colorado Avalanche 5-3 on Thursday night.
“We did a lot of good things,” Parise said after Minnesota’s season-high score.
Torrey Mitchell, Devin Setoguchi and Jonas Brodin had goals and Matt Cullen had two assists for the Wild, who improved to 10-3-1 at home and bounced back from a stinging loss two nights ago. Suter is second among NHL defencemen with 20 assists in 26 games. Jared Spurgeon led Wild blue-liners with 20 assists over a full 2011-12 season.
P.A. Parenteau had two goals for the Avalanche, the second with 13:17 left in the game to prevent the Wild from coasting to the finish. Gabe Landeskog also scored and Erik Johnson had two assists for the Avs, but they were outshot 40-32. Koivu’s empty-netter with 33 seconds remaining sealed it.
His 3-on-2 goal that capped a three-score second period for the Wild to stretch the lead to 4-2, just 66 seconds after Landeskog’s goal cut the lead, was the highlight.
Parise and Suter, naturally, were in the middle of it.
“That was a very entertaining play to watch by three extremely skilled players,” coach Mike Yeo said.
Parise brought the puck up the right wing and passed it to Suter, who sent it right back to his buddy. Parise drew goalie Semyon Varmalov out and zipped the puck through the slot to Koivu, whose one-timer found the top and the back of the wide-open net while Varmalov was still out of the crease on the other side.
“I think he knows I like to shoot,” Parise said, smiling.
Koivu set up the rush by winning a scrap for a loose puck along the boards.
“I had my mind made up to try to get it over across to Mikko. He made me a little nervous by going upstairs, but that was a big goal,” Parise said.
Just the way fans might have envisioned on July 4 when Parise and Suter signed.
“I didn’t expect they were going to pass it to me,” Koivu quipped. “But they did tonight.”
Minnesota got the opening goal for the sixth straight game when Torrey Mitchell, whose apparent score in a 2-1 loss to Anaheim here Tuesday was waved off after a video review, sent a shot through goalie Varmalov’s armpit barely 3 minutes in. The Wild’s forecheck was fierce again two nights later, and with Pierre-Marc Bouchard moved up to the second line the trio with him, Cullen and Setoguchi were especially buzzing all over the ice.
Cullen faked a shot so well in the second period that Avs defenceman Greg Zanon fell as he reacted, giving Cullen a clear path toward the net. Varmalov turned aside his shot, but Setoguchi was there to knock in the rebound to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.
“You know what happened before that? We missed the net on a shot that starts their breakout,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “Those are the little things. It’s a mistake after another mistake.”
Brodin, one of a handful of well-regarded prospects the Wild have begun to work into their lineup, has played beyond his years on the blue line with the veteran Suter. He sent a snap shot past Varmalov from the left circle less than 2 minutes later.
“Kind of unacceptable right now, our record that we have on the road,” Parenteau said. “We have to find a way as a team to fix that. We’re running out of time here.”
After handing Chicago its first regulation loss of the season last week and following that with a win in overtime over San Jose, the Avalanche have stumbled. They were beaten 4-0 by Edmonton on Tuesday, and this wasn’t much better despite their third-period push.
Milan Hejduk returned to the lineup, at least, after missing five games because of what he called a stiff neck. He replaced David Jones on the first line with Landeskog and Paul Stastny. Jones moved down to the third line with John Mitchell and Ryan O’Reilly.
NOTES: After a violent blindside collision with Corey Perry that brought the Anaheim RW a four-game suspension, Wild LW Jason Zucker was held out with what the team has called an upper-body injury. The rookie was feeling better, though, and expected to travel to Colorado. Yeo said the way Bouchard played will make a tough decision about who to leave out of the lineup. … The Avs killed four power plays and have given up just one extra-skater goal in the last four games, 14 out of 15 situations.