DENVER – A good friendship off the ice has turned into great chemistry on it.
Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski were in perfect step in the Colorado Avalanche’s 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night. Stastny scored twice and assisted on Wolski’s empty-net goal with a second left. “I think we’ve built a pretty good relationship,” said Wolski, who also assisted on one of Stastny’s goals. “We’re just both working hard.”
Stastny’s two goals in the second period, along with his assist, gave him 100 points in 99 career games. He’s just the sixth player in franchise history to reach 100 points in 100 or fewer contests.
Stastny’s father, Peter, needed 73 games to reach 100 points. His uncles, Marian and Anton Stastny, took 82 and 95 games, respectively, to reach the mark.
Ryan Smyth can’t believe the patience Stastny displays on the ice. On his second goal of the game, he waited for the traffic to clear in front of the net and then fired a wrist shot past Minnesota goal Niklas Backstrom.
“He makes plays,” said Smyth, who had a goal and an assist. “The puck doesn’t die with him. Collectively, we’re playing well together.”
Peter Budaj had a solid game in net, stopping 25 shots. He allowed two power-play goals in the second period, and then clamped down.
One of the goals deflected up into the air and Budaj couldn’t locate it. Eric Belanger knocked it in for the Wild.
“I don’t know why goalies never look up when the puck is in the air,” Budaj said. “I tried to get back in net, the puck went off my shoulder as I went down and into the net. It was an unlucky break.”
Pierre-Marc Bouchard also had a power-play goal for the Wild. Minnesota has seven power-play goals in its last three games.
The Wild were off for five days before taking the ice Sunday and coach Jacques Lemaire thought the break hurt his team at the beginning.
“We didn’t pass the puck well to start,” he said. “Sure, we practised well the last two days. But the opposition is not the same.”
The Avalanche will be in the same position this week. The team doesn’t play again until Friday night in Dallas.
“I think the big thing is we have some practices to work on things and better ourselves,” Smyth said. “Hopefully, we can build off the next little week here.”
Joe Sakic assisted on Stastny’s first goal, which came courtesy of a power play. He now has 12 assists in his last 12 games. However, Sakic only has one goal in that time frame.
Marian Gaborik missed his second straight game due to a lingering strained groin. The Wild were without forward Stephane Veilleux, who was scratched before the game. He broke his left cheekbone when he was hit by a puck in practice Saturday.
“We have to play better than we did tonight if we want to win – with our injured players or without them,” Lemaire said. “We have to play well with the players that we had.”
Colorado coach Joel Quenneville is certainly pleased with what he’s seeing out of the combination of Stastny and Wolski.
Quenneville has recently started to give them more ice time together.
“They haven’t played a lot together, but when they do get together, they seem to work well together,” Quenneville said. “Paul had a real nice game.”
Not that he wanted to talk about it or the fact he already had reached 100 points for his career.
“I’ll look back maybe down the road,” Stastny said. “I’m just excited right now that the team won and we’re playing well. I feel good out there.”
Notes: Avalanche F Ian Laperriere suffered an unspecified knee injury in the second period and didn’t return. The Avalanche said he would be out 2-to-4 weeks. … The Wild called up F Aaron Voros and G Nolan Schaefer from the AHL’s Houston Aeros before the game. Voros made his NHL debut Sunday. … Colorado has the best home record in the Western Conference at 9-1. … Stastny has 20 points at the Pepsi Center this season, tying him for the league lead in scoring on home ice.