Andrew Brunette's power-play goal late in a sluggish second period forged a tie that John Madden broke by scoring with 9:05 left, lifting the desperate Wild to a 5-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
"You need those guys on the team. They bring a lot of confidence in the room," goalie Niklas Backstrom said. "They've been in this situation a lot of times in past years, so they're really key guys for us. The bigger the game, the bigger the situation, they're usually stepping up."
Martin Havlat, Jared Spurgeon and Kyle Brodziak each had a goal and an assist for the Wild, who welcomed Guillaume Latendresse back from a 58-game absence after injuries to his midsection. He skated on the fourth line in a limited role, but he still made an impact.
Latendresse was muscling for position in the crease on Spurgeon's goal, tacked on less than three minutes after Madden knocked in a feed from Matt Cullen after Chuck Kobasew's forecheck on the end boards pried the puck loose.
"It's nice having that big body back out in front of the net," Wild coach Todd Richards said.
Minnesota improved to 77 points, matching eighth-place Los Angeles -- though the Kings technically own the eighth spot because they have a game in hand.
The Wild are trying to string together their lines without captain Mikko Koivu and relentless Cal Clutterbuck. Koivu is just starting to skate again after breaking his finger nine games ago and Clutterbuck missed his second straight game with what the Wild have vaguely been calling an upper-body injury.
"Other teams are struggling with it, so we're not crying over here, but injuries are huge this time of year especially when you lose a guy like Koivu or Clutterbuck," Madden said. "It's nice to see Gui back in."
The Avs would like something nice to happen to them. Kevin Porter and Paul Stastny had goals for the turnover-plagued Avalanche, who again hit their ceiling: They're averaging less than two scores during a 2-16-2 slide that has dropped them to 14th in the West.
"We still have a lot of time here and a lot of hockey remaining to be played," coach Joe Sacco said. "We want to stay positive and keep playing hard and making sure guys continue to play the right way."
The Avalanche are still winless this season (0-27-4) when they score fewer than three goals.
"Very, very frustrating," said defenseman Ryan O'Byrne, who returned from a facial injury that kept him out four games. "We're so close. We're just about there. It's been a rough stretch. We just need to go over that one more hill and hopefully get on a roll here."
The Wild played a listless second period, and Stastny put Colorado ahead at 16:11 by backhanding in a rebound of Milan Hejduk's shot off Backstrom's glove and into the net for a 2-1 lead. But Brunette tied it just 1:35 later by knocking in the rebound of Pierre-Marc Bouchard's slap shot that fluttered around Peter Budaj's shoulder before the goalie was able to control it.
With a four-game trip coming later this week, the Wild knew they had to beat the struggling Avs.
"We knew we've got to win. Everybody else is winning," Havlat said.
The Avalanche lost defenseman John-Michael Liles to a leg injury in the first period, negating the return of O'Byrne, who was back for the first time since his face got cut by a skate blade against Edmonton on Feb. 23. O'Byrne, who wore a special caged helmet for extra protection, needed 100 stitches to close the wound.
"Going down to five Ds is never easy, especially losing a guy like John-Michael," O'Byrne said. "I haven't played in a couple weeks too, so you just have to manage yourself properly and be smart. I thought we did that for the most part."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report
|Martin Havlat (21) ASST: Kyle Brodziak (18), Brent Burns (26)|
1 - 0 MIN
|Kevin Porter (12) ASST: Ryan Wilson (9), Paul Stastny (32)|
1 - 1 Tie
|PPG - Paul Stastny (20) ASST: Milan Hejduk (29), Matt Duchene (29)|
2 - 1 COL
|PPG - Andrew Brunette (16) ASST: Pierre-Marc Bouchard (21), Jared Spurgeon (7)|
2 - 2 Tie
|John Madden (11) ASST: Matt Cullen (25), Chuck Kobasew (5)|
3 - 2 MIN
|Jared Spurgeon (2) ASST: Martin Havlat (38), Eric Nystrom (6)|
4 - 2 MIN
|SHG - EN - Kyle Brodziak (15) ASST: Greg Zanon (6), Niklas Backstrom (1)|
5 - 2 MIN
|Martin Havlat Hooking against Erik Johnson|
|Matt Duchene Holding against Matt Cullen|
|Paul Stastny Hooking against Jared Spurgeon|
|Paul Stastny Hooking against Matt Cullen|
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard Tripping against Erik Johnson|
|Brent Burns Interference against Paul Stastny|
|Ryan Wilson Closing hand on puck|
|Martin Havlat Hi-sticking against Daniel Winnik|
|Peter Budaj Roughing against Guillaume Latendresse|
|Martin Havlat Tripping against Erik Johnson|
|Cody McLeod Roughing against Marek Zidlicky|
|Cody McLeod Misconduct (10 min) against Marek Zidlicky|