ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After a week of hype and talk, the Colorado Avalanche walked the walk on Sunday.
Colorado scored once in each period and got a stellar effort from goaltender Semyon Varlamov in a 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
The victory was Colorado's third straight, and its first against Minnesota in five games this season. It pulled the Avalanche within seven points of the Winnipeg Jets for the second Western Conference wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Colorado (30-25-11) trails the Wild by eight points.
"I'm really proud of our guys, they played really well," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "That's the kind of hockey we've been playing lately. We understood how important this game was for us and we needed to come up with a strong game."
For Varlamov, it was his second victory in a 24-hour span; he also helped the Avalanche in a 4-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.
Perhaps more concerning for the Avalanche was Varlamov's departure late in the third period. He stayed in the game after taking a shot up high in the second, but left the game with less than six minutes remaining.
Roy did not have an update after the game, but said it was a lower-body injury and mentioned cramping as a possibility.
The loss ended Minnesota's five-game winning streak and was the fourth regulation loss for goaltender Devan Dubnyk since he was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14.
Minnesota (36-23-7) outshot Colorado 34-21, but the Avalanche blocked 18 shots and the Wild missed wide on several others.
"We didn't play that great," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "I thought we had a good start, then we started to turn a lot of pucks over through the neutral zone in the second period and that took away from our game."
It took 43 seconds for McLeod to answer for his actions when he fought former teammate Chris Stewart on their first shifts.
"I played with him for three or four years. He's a good buddy of mine," McLeod said. "He's doing his job and I'm doing mine. That's the way it goes in hockey.
"I'd say this is our main rival right now and stuff happened last game, but we came out to battle and our main goal was to get two points."
The fight seemed to ease the tensions.
"Their season was on the line tonight," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I knew they were coming in here with one thought and we were thinking the same thing. The hype and the build-up to these games is almost 90 percent of the time far more than the outcome is."
Colorado came out slow, unable to get a shot on goal until 14:20 of the first. But a goal late in the period changed the complexion of the game.
McLeod, drawing loud boos from the Minnesota crowd, redirected a Jarome Iginla shot at 18:05 to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead.
"Especially against this team, it was good," McLeod said.
Late in the second, a shot by defenseman Zach Redmond eluded Dubnyk at 18:09.
Early in the third, Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog put in a loose puck in the crease for his 19th at 1:19 with Colorado on a power play. It was the first power-play goal scored by either team against the other this season.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game on the second half of back-to-backs," Landeskog said. "For us, it was a matter of not finding excuses and we knew what we had to do. We needed those two points."
Stewart scored his first goal in a Wild uniform, dumping the puck into the corner and having it bounce back into the slot and off an Avalanche defender and in at 14:04.
"It wasn't ideal, but I'll take it," Stewart said.
Varlamov left the game seconds later and was replaced by Reto Berra, who made three saves over the final 5:44.
Wild forward Thomas Vanek scored with 19.4 seconds remaining and an extra attacker on the ice to make it a one-goal game.
In the final moments, Parise chased down a loose puck behind the net and centered a pass into traffic near the crease, but the puck slipped through and out of the zone as time expired.
Dubnyk made 18 saves for the Wild. He is 18-4-1 with Minnesota and 27-9-3 this season.