DENVER – The regular-season finale between Colorado and Minnesota was relatively tame. That won’t be the case when the teams meet again later this week.
Wojtek Wolski and Joe Sakic scored shootout goals, Jose Theodore stopped both of Minnesota’s shootout attempts and the Avalanche beat the Wild 4-3 on Sunday, setting up a first-round playoff matchup between the teams.
The teams have met once in the post-season, in the first round in 2003, when the Wild rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to beat Colorado in seven games. That was a physical series, and both teams are expecting the same in Game 1 Wednesday or Thursday in St. Paul, Minn.
Sunday wasn’t as physical until the third period, when the Avalanche got power-play goals from Sakic and Milan Hejduk 3:14 apart to take a 3-2 lead.
Brian Rolston tied it with 3:21 left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
“It picked up as the game went on,” Sakic said.
Things got a little chippy in overtime when Ian Laperriere and Marian Gaborik exchanged punches and drew five-minute fighting majors each.
“We kind of collided and then there was pushing and shoving,” Gaborik said. “We happened to drop gloves. Those things happen.”
Laperriere said he doesn’t expect the fight to carry over to the playoffs.
“A little push around, he punched me, I punched him back,” he said. “It’s intense out there. We’re going to see each other in the next couple of weeks, but I wouldn’t make a big deal about it.”
Colorado made sure the Northwest Division rivals would face each other with the win. The Avalanche needed at least a point to move into the No. 6 spot, and behind Peter Forsberg’s three assists and Theodore’s 34 saves, they got the win.
“It’s great,” said Forsberg, who finished the year with one goal and 13 assists in nine games. “I ended up on a good note and we got the win. Now the fun starts.”
The Wild lost for the first time in five games despite a strong game from backup goalie Josh Harding. Harding, who hasn’t won since Feb. 10, had 33 saves for the Wild.
“He looked good,” said Minnesota head coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team clinched its first division title by beating Calgary on Thursday. “There wasn’t anything wrong with the way he played.”
The Wild took a 2-1 lead late in the second period when Keith Carney, who had 10 assists in 60 games this season, took a shot from just inside the blue-line that beat Theodore. It was Carney’s first goal since April 5, 2007, a span of 62 games.
The Avalanche got the equalizer 18 seconds after Pierre-Marc Bouchard went off for holding. Forsberg sent a diagonal pass across the front of the net to Sakic, who gathered the puck and then put a shot over Harding’s right shoulder with 14:12 left in regulation.
Mark Parrish gave the Wild the early lead, scoring a power-play goal with 2:58 left in the first period. Parrish whacked at a loose puck near Theodore’s left pad and knocked it in to make it 1-0.
Paul Stastny tied it 5:25 into the second period. The Avalanche moved the puck around the Minnesota end, and Forsberg sent a shot to the front of the net from the left boards. Stastny lifted a shot over the pads of Harding to tie the game.
Now both teams are preparing for a physical series.
“It reminded me of an All-Star game tonight,” Rolston said. “I’m sure there’s going to be a little bit of the rough stuff in the playoffs because we’re playing for the Stanley Cup. That’s just the way it is.”
Notes: Harding’s last start was March 24 against Edmonton. He has lost six straight starts. … The Avalanche finished with 27 wins at home, their most since winning 28 in 2001, when they won the Stanley Cup. … Sakic scored his 205th career power-play goal, passing Wayne Gretzky for 12th on the all-time list.