Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche skates with the puck as Matt Duchene and Chris Porter of the Minnesota Wild look on during the second period of their NHL game in Denver, Colorado, on Monday. Avalanche won 2-1 in overtime. (AFP)
By Michael Russo in Denver/Minneapolis Star Tribune (TNS)
One game after the Wild skated circles around the Colorado Avalanche in what felt like a 60-minute track meet in St. Paul, the Avalanche did their best to slam the brakes on the Wild two nights later in the Mile High City.
In a slow, choppy game with sporadic shots on goal, few scoring chances and so much time spent in a clogged neutral zone that Jacques Lemaire would have blushed, the Avalanche snapped the Wild's three-game winning streak with a 2-1 overtime win at the Pepsi Center.
The Wild forced overtime late on Zach Parise's tying goal, but John Mitchell scored with 1:25 left in overtime as Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu got trapped on the ice. The Wild fell to 1-5 in overtime. It was only the Avalanche's second win against Minnesota in the past eight meetings and fourth regulation win against Minnesota in the past 23 regular-season games in Denver.
With the Wild trailing 1-0 in a frustrating third period (the Wild registered two shots in the first 13 minutes), Parise scored his first goal since Oct. 25 to tie the score.
It was classic Parise, who had no goals and two assists in five games since returning from a sprained knee ligament. Parked at the goal crease, Parise scored off his own rebound after Jason Pominville fed Mikael Granlund for a shot at the near post.
In 17 regular-season games against Colorado with Minnesota, Parise has 10 goals and 11 assists, plus another 10 points in the Wild's 7-game 2014 playoff win. The game featured 10 shots after one period, 23 after two and four total shots in the first 10 minutes of the third period.
The Wild entered the game having given up one goal in their previous three games and was coming off consecutive shutouts, so Monday's contest was bound to be a tight one.
Even though the Wild is usually successful in Denver, they usually have to fend off a charged up Avalanche team at the start of most games.
But the opening 20 minutes was relatively quiet, a period that featured 10 combined shots. Darcy Kuemper, starting in place of an injured Devan Dubnyk, made a couple nice stops early, and Semyon Varlamov made a nifty save on a Thomas Vanek-to-Mikko Koivu power-play setup.
There wasn't a ton of energy, maybe partly because of a 20-minute ceremony to open the game to honor the Avalanche's 20-year anniversary team, a squad that featured general manager Joe Sakic, coach Patrick Roy and the return of legends Peter Forsberg and Ray Bourque, fan favorites Adam Foote and Adam Deadmarsh and former Wild killer Milan Hejduk.
The Wild outshot the Avalanche 9-4 in the second period, but one of those four came off a tic-tac-toe setup that Kuemper had no prayer of stopping.
The snakebit Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Nino Niederreiter line wore themselves out cycling the puck in the offensive zone. After a long forecheck that ended with no Wild goal, the Avalanche went the other way and the Wild was dead tired.
The Avs capitalized with a Blake Comeau to Carl Soderberg to Tyson Barrie dagger after Barrie, a freewheeling defenseman, flew by Marco Scandella and to the backdoor with nobody near him. The goal snapped the Wild's franchise-record shutout streak at 178 minutes, 52 seconds.
The Wild didn't have a ton of chances, but Varlamov was terrific. He made a sprawling save on Ryan Suter off a Pominville rebound after losing his balance when collided by a teammate. He twice stoned Granlund on Grade A chances and the Wild, which rallied from a three-goal, third-period deficit Opening Night in Denver, was forced again to attempt another third-period rally, this time only down a goal.
The Wild suddenly may have one big concern: Vanek. The Wild's goal-scoring leader with 10 has no points in four games and looks like he's playing hurt. He had no explosion with his skating Monday, seemed to be laboring throughout, showed his frustration often after shifts and after the first period had a lengthy conversation with athletic therapist Don Fuller on the bench.
Predators 3, Bruins 2: Nashville winger Viktor Arvidsson scored on a solo rush with 4:56 left to give the Predators a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins. The win was only the third in the last 10 games for the Predators, while the Bruins lost in regulation for the first time in nine.
Canucks 5, Sabres 2: Radim Vrbata scored three goals as the Vancouver Canucks snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Henrik Sedin and Brandon Prust, with his first goal as a Canuck, also scored for Vancouver (10-11-8). Daniel Sedin had two assists.
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