"We know it's gonna be a battle, we know we have to compete and execute." Wild forward Jason Pominville said after Saturday's morning skate. The Wild knew they caught the Avalanche on an off-night Thursday in the regular season opener. Wild head coach Mike Yeo instilled into his team immediately after the game on Thursday that they will expect a different team for tonight's match-up.
The Wild came out and took the life right out of the Pepsi Center when Charlie Coyle deflected a Ryan Suter shot past Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov 1:51 in to the game. Minnesota jumped out to a 15-9 shot advantage and looked really good during a first period power play in which they hurled eight, yes 8, shots on Varlamov, but couldn't find the back of the net. While there was more life to the Avalanche, it appeared that they couldn't really get much going in the Minnesota zone.
"We want to become a good road team and obviously this will be a good challenge," Yeo said about playing on the road this season.
The Avs came to life in the second period attempting to take the Wild off their game with physical play. There were hard hits and shenanigans after the whistle, led by Gabriel Landeskog, of course. The Wild got a five minute power play after Erik Johnson launched himself in to fellow former Golden Gopher Erik Haula. He was immediately sent off the ice. Haula appeared to dodge most of the check and may have just been clipped by Johnson's stick. Haula came right back out for the ensuing power play and appeared fine. The major power play would be interrupted by a lazy Thomas Vanek interference penalty. The Avalanche out-shot the Wild 11-10 in the second period and came very close a couple times to scoring but Darcy Kuemper held strong for the Wild. Mike Yeo, looking for more offense from his second line, promoted Jason Zucker in lieu of Matt Cooke and saw instant success. Vanek found the puck and found a wide open Zucker in the slot who sniped the upper right corner over Varlamov's glove hand to give the Wild a 2-0 lead.
The third period would see more Wild power play opportunities, but the Wild would return to the form of the middle of last season and struggle just to enter the offensive zone. The Wild couldn't capitalize. Patrick Roy would pull the goalie with 2:58 left in the game and the Avs would finally go to work on the Wild. Matt Cooke would slash the stick out of an Avs player's hands and head to the box. It became a 6-on-4 advantage and the Wild would get free range on the open net on the other end. Brodziak tried a bank shot that hit the post. Haula couldn't direct his shot toward the net. Finally, Zach Parise would stumble, and bumble, and fumble his way to pick up a loose puck and tuck the puck into the open cage, sealing the deal for the Wild and securing the shutout for Darcy Kuemper.
Your goal scorers were Charlie Coyle, with his first of the year from Suter and Jonas Brodin, Jason Zucker with his first from Vanek and Matt Dumba, and finally Parise in an empty net with his second of the season from Matt Cooke and Jared Spurgeon. There was a combined 39 penalty minutes between the two teams and the Wild finished 0-for-6 on the power play. More importantly, the penalty kill held strong and has yet to let in a goal as the PK units went 3-for-3.
The Wild will now be off until next Friday, goofy scheduling, I know, when they take on the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. With two straight shutouts, Keumper is likely to be in between the pipes for a third straight game. You have to think Niklas Backstrom will see some time next weekend as well.
Three Stars of the Game:
30 saves, no goals against, 1.000 save percentage
2.) Jason Zucker
1 goal, 2 shots, 9:41 TOI
3.) Semyon Varlamov
33 saves, 3 goals against, 939 save percentage