Mikko Koivu, wearing a "C" on the Wild's brand-new green third jerseys, assisted on Minnesota' first goal, scored the second to tie the game in the third period and connected again in the shootout as the Wild ended a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
Koivu was chosen as captain the day before the game and promptly showed why he's held in such high regard.
"He leads by example. He battles and competes," coach Todd Richards said. "He's not perfect by any means, but his hard work and his effort makes up for a lot of the mistakes that happen in a game, whether it's by him or his teammates."
Brent Burns rammed home Koivu's rebound for a power-play goal 3:44 into the game. After second-period goals by Darcy Tucker and Kyle Quincey put the Avs ahead entering the final 20 minutes, Koivu redirected Antti Miettinen's pass behind Craig Anderson for a power-play goal with 4:51 left in regulation.
"Some nights it's going to go in, and some nights it's tough," said Koivu, one of many Minnesota players who's struggled to adapt to Richards' more up-tempo system. "As long as we're getting chances."
Koivu then scored on the first shot of the shootout and Niklas Backstrom stopped all three Colorado shooters for the win.
The win was a relief for Richards, whose team came home after going 0-5 on a trip through California and Western Canada. The Wild entered the game with a 1-6-0 record after going 6-0-1 in their first seven last season.
"You wonder if you'll ever get over the hump, so hopefully this does give the guys some confidence as far as finding ways to win games," Richards said.
Despite the loss, the Avs were happy to be heading home from a seven-game trip with a 4-1-2 record. At 6-1-2, they're a far cry from the team that finished last in the Western Conference in 2008-09.
"We've really showed we can compete, especially on the road," left wing Wojtek Wolski said. "It's a good start. We know it's very early, so we've got to keep it up."
Bruins 4, Predators 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Game 1 without Milan Lucic and Marc Savard turned into a victory for the Boston Bruins, as Steve Begin's shorthanded goal 8:33 into the third period snapped a 2-2 tie.
The win continued the Bruins' lose-one, win-one pattern -- something that coach Claude Julien wants to see ended, starting Thursday in Philadelphia.
"We're standing here with another win and also standing here knowing we haven't won two in a row," Julien said. "We need to put together two good games in a row."
Boston, which lost Lucic to a broken finger and Savard with a broken foot, was also without Shawn Thornton, who missed the game with an undisclosed injury. They also dealt forward Chuck Kobasew to Minnesota earlier in the week.
In their place, the Bruins used newly acquired Daniel Paille and callups Brad Marchand and Trent Whitfield. Paille set up Begin's game-winner and Marchard assisted on Michael Ryder's game-tying goal early in the second period.
"It's awesome," said Begin, who signed with Boston as a free agent during the offseason. "Most important thing is we won the game but it's great to get my first goal out of the way. Now, I'm going to have to think about something else. Not that I was thinking about it every day but it's a big relief."
Paille tried to wrap the puck around the net, it hit a defenseman's stick and went into the slot where Begin pounced on it and beat Dan Ellis. The Bruins held on at the end with Tim Thomas closing the door in the final seconds.
"The puck went into a huge scrum and you just try to battle for sight," Ellis said after the Predators lost their sixth in a row. Unfortunately, I saw it a half-second too late. I saw it going by but not enough time to react to it."
Jerred Smithson scored 5:55 into the game for Nashville. After Ryder tied it 26 seconds into the second period. rookie Colin Wilson, a member of Boston University's 2009 NCAA championship team, scored his first NHL goal by swatting home a loose puck at 6:17.
Patrice Bergeron jammed home the rebound of Zdeno Chara's shot at 12:38 to tie the game again.
Sabres 5, Panthers 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Buffalo wasted little time getting the jump on the Panthers, scoring three times in the first five minutes and five times in the first 16:48 to beat Florida for the ninth time in their last 11 meetings.
"We weren’t ready," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "And that’s inexcusable."
The Panthers forced Ryan Miller to make 41 saves. But Miller, who remained unbeaten in regulation with a 5-0-1 record, was impressed with the way his teammates gave him a big early cushion.
"I was very impressed with the start," Miller said. "I think that everyone in the room recognized that our last home start wasn't what we wanted. We wanted to definitely come back and prove that we could bring our game together and not lose two in a row. That's going to be important over the course of a season."
Scott Clemmensen, who played well in Florida's 4-2 win over Philadelphia last Friday, didn't last two minutes against the Sabres. Mike Grier scored 1:11 into the game for his second goal of the season, and Jason Pominville connected for a power-play goal 45 seconds later to end Clemmensen's night.
DeBoer didn’t blame at Clemmensen for the poor start.
"We needed a spark," he said of the reason for the change. "We weren’t ready to play. I tried to shock them into getting themselves back into the game. Sometimes those things work, sometimes they don’t. Obviously, it didn’t tonight."
Tomas Vokoun fared no better. Matt Ellis scored at 4:37 and rookie Tyler Myers scored on a shot from the blue line at 10:20 in the opening period to give the Sabres a four-goal lead.
"There was no question on the work ethic in the game. I think we worked throughout the game," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "We didn't make a lot of good decisions at times, but I thought our work ethic was really good."
Steven Reinprecht gave the Panthers a glimmer of hope when he scored at 14:11, but Thomas Vanek, playing his first game since being injured last Tuesday, knocked in a shot during a scramble at 16:48.
Slow starts are becoming a bad habit for the Panthers, who've been outscored 11-2 in the first period.
"It’s frustrating," DeBoer said. "We talked in our pre-game meeting about Buffalo having a good first period. They didn’t in Atlanta (Saturday) and paid the price for it with a loss. We knew what to expect. We went in eyes wide open."
Rostislav Olesz's power-play goal with 2:13 left was far too little and way too late.
Stars 4, Ducks 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Dallas' two good periods trumped Anaheim's one, as the Stars rode 40 strong minutes to a victory over the Ducks at the Honda Center.
Loui Eriksson scored the only goal of the first period, banging home a rebound at 14:01.
The Stars outshot Anaheim 16-5 in the opening 20 minutes and continued the domination into the second. The Stars made it 2-0 at 4:17 when goalie Jonas Hiller went behind his net to clear the puck, but saw it hop off his stick. Mike Ribeiro fed it out in front and Brenden Morrow sent a quick wrist shot past Hiller's left leg just as the goalie scrambled back to the crease.
Trevor Daley made it 3-0 at 8:53, beating Hiller high to the glove side with a snap shot from about 30 feet.
"Our first two periods were pretty close to the best periods we've played for most of the year," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "If we could bottle those kinds of efforts, we'll win a lot of hockey games."
"Our first two periods were pretty close to the best periods we've played for most of the year. If we could bottle those kinds of efforts, we'll win a lot of hockey games." -- Marc Crawford
The Ducks came out in the third period with the kind of energy that hadn't shown in the first two. They cut the deficit to 3-2 at 8:35 after Corey Perry intercepted Turco's poor clearing pass behind the net. Perry fed Joffrey Lupul, who flubbed his one-timer only to have the puck carom off Skrastins' leg and trickle between Turco's pads.
"We played a really good first two periods," Daley said. "What we saw from them in the third was what we expected. But for the most part, we played a pretty good game."
Anaheim pounded away, taking 14 shots in the final period, but Turco held on until Steve Ott hit the empty net with 8.2 seconds remaining.
"Nobody wants to be in this situation where we're not getting involved and not doing certain things," Getzlaf said. "We didn't start playing until the third period, and that is not acceptable in this League. We're not going to accept it as a group. We have to get ready to go ready to go tomorrow and get back on our horse."