As positive as we try to be here at Wild.com, we know there are going to be rough times ahead. A good player is probably going to get hurt. Here and there, an opponent is just going to refuse to lose against the Wild. A goaltender is probably going to struggle for a week or two.
Well, that last thing doesn’t seem very likely, but you get the point.
That’s why character-building wins – especially within the Northwest Division – like the Minnesota Wild’s 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday are so important.
After taking a 2-0 lead in the second period, Minnesota surrendered two goals later in the middle frame to set up a tense third. Just when the contest appeared headed to overtime, Mikko Koivu scored a huge goal with 3:04 remaining, erasing the memory of last night’s game.
Koivu put nine shots on goal in the Wild’s 3-1 over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, but was repeatedly robbed by Manny Legace’s trapper glove. Tonight, he would not be denied as he took the puck behind the Colorado goal and then cut to the front and stuffed it underneath Peter Budaj.
With the Wild playing its second game in less than 24 hours, the goal was helpful just to save the Wild’s legs.
“Of course you want to win it like that and get both points,” said Koivu, who is tied for the team lead with three markers. “Tonight, in the third period, we had a good effort there. It’s not always easy but that was a good effort by the team and a good way to finish it.”
Mark Parrish and Brian Rolston each scored power play goals in the second period before Tyler Arnason and Andrew Brunette tallied 2:11 apart.
The momentum appeared to be Colorado’s heading into the third, but Minnesota has given up just one third period goal all season, and that would continue on Sunday.
“After the second, I told the guys ‘the third period is ours,’” said Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire. “Since the start, we’ve been good in the third. It tells me we are playing well, and we’re in shape.”
It also means that the Wild goaltending continues to be superb in the clutch. Niklas Backstrom stopped 29 of 31 shots, including all nine in the third period. This, despite several scrambles in front of him caused by shots from everywhere and big fellas like Ryan Smyth camping out in front of him.
“It’s a good team and they like to play in front of the net and getting the puck to the net,” said Backstrom. “We were really strong in front of our net and that was the difference in the game.”
The Wild’s power play helped make a difference as well. The unit was two-for-five, and moving the puck well all night. Parrish opened the scoring after Marian Gaborik found him all alone in front of the net. After a brief bit of stickhandling, Parrish found an opening for his second goal of the year.
“I knew I had plenty of time,” said Parrish, who was left all alone. “It’s nice to have that amount of time in front.”
Rolston then converted with a two-man advantage, blasting a shot from the point past several bodies – including Parrish’s – in front of the net.
“I knew I had Budaj, because I could here him squealing,” said Parrish. “You give a shooter like Rolston that kind of time, it doesn’t matter if I’m in front of the net or not.”
But the Avs fought back, which forced Minnesota to wake up and find a way to win, like it has all season.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence, but we have to be careful and not get overly confident,” said Parrish. “We saw what can happen when you take your foot off the gas for a little while, especially with a team with the skill like Colorado. We woke up in time and pulled out a win.”
Now, having played four road games prior to Sunday, the Wild will head right back out for three more before a four-game homestand. The way this team is playing, they seem fine playing in Greenland.
“We try to play the same game whether we are home or on the road,” said Backstrom. “That was something we struggled with at the beginning of last season so that’s what we’ve been focusing on now – getting the points on the road.”
Game Puck Goes To…
Mikko Koivu. If you ask Lemaire, Koivu has been his best player all season. He came through with a crucial goal that showcased his skill and grit.
Niklas Backstrom. It was status quo for Backstrom again. He gave up only two goals, came up with spectacular saves, and shut the door in the third period.
Pavol Demitra left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury. His status will be updated Monday.
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