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Avs Generate Special Teams Success Against Wild

Nathan MacKinnon tallied two power-play goals

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

DENVER--It took more than 50 minutes, but the Colorado Avalanche finally got its power play going.

Nathan MacKinnon scored twice with the extra man in the third period, and the Avs skated past the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night in a 5-1 preseason victory at Pepsi Center. Colorado improved to 2-2-0 in exhibition play while Minnesota dropped its first game of September (3-1-0).

MacKinnon had a monster third period, picking up points in all three of the Avalanche's tallies. He started the stanza off by delivering a perfect pass right in front that allowed Mikko Rantanen to redirect the puck into the cage at 6:25

The forward then scored two of his own, registering power-play markers at 12:05 and 16:18 to finally give the Avalanche some success with the extra attacker. Colorado had gone 2-for-13 on the man advantage in its previous two games and was goalless in its first six chances on Sunday.

"We were playing really well, and we had a ton of chances on the power play in the first period," MacKinnon said. "Every power play we got, I felt like we generated some chances. So it was just a matter of time before we scored one or two, and it feels good."

Video: Nathan MacKinnon after win vs. Minnesota

The Avs had a strong opening stanza, outshooting the Wild 10-7 and were on the power play four times. However, it was Minnesota that took advantage of its second man-up opportunity with Marcus Foligno scoring with 38.9 seconds left before the intermission.

Special teams is still a work in progress for Colorado after it finished 2-for-9 on the power play and killed off 5-of-6 penalties against the Wild. Those numbers are fine at this time of the year with the players trying to figure out the right approach before the regular season begins.

"It's nothing to be frustrated about," said Rocco Grimaldi of the Avs' power play. "Same thing with PK. It comes with time. Once we start working on it for a few weeks, we'll get it done and everything will be OK."

The Avalanche kept the pressure on the Wild in the second frame and finally got on the scoreboard after Minnesota made a pre-planned goalie switch.

Niklas Svedberg stopped all 17 shots he faced in the first 31:25, but his replacement, Steve Michalek didn't fare as well. The Avs went on to score five unanswered goals on Michalek, who also finished with 17 saves.

The Avalanche swarmed around the puck all night in the Wild zone and finished with a 39-29 edge in shots on goal and a 61-44 advantage in shot attempts.

"It seems to be that we have more guys making plays with the puck," Colorado head coach Jared Bednar said. "We got a little bit more speed out there, more poise with the puck and have found some chemistry on a couple lines. Things on that end are always going to be a work in progress, but we're doing some good things there."

Video: Jared Bednar after the preseason win over Wild

The Avs quickly turned the tide of the contest late in the second period after J.T. Compher and Grimaldi scored in a 1:22 span to give the club a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

Compher's goal came after he stickhandled through a couple Wild players and threw the puck off the post and in on the far side at 14:07. Grimaldi then cleaned up a rebound after a shot from Mark Barberio caromed right to him with 4:31 left before the intermission.

Grimaldi has been hard on pucks during his three preseason games, and his hustle helped set up the Avs' lone tally on Saturday night when the two squads met in St. Paul.

"I think my reputation is a guy that goes out and works hard and competes every game and practice, for that matter," Grimaldi said. "I just want to go out every night and give it my best and leave the results up to whoever is picking (the roster)."

Video: Postgame interview with Rocco Grimaldi

Semyon Varlamov had another strong outing in goal for Colorado, stopping 28 shots.

He says he's feeling more comfortable each game, which is a good thing for a goalie that missed eight months while recovering from hip surgery to fix his injured groin.

"My body feels 100 percent," Varlamov said. "That was a big question for me before the training camp: how my body would react, when I'm going to push myself, when I'm going to push the limits. The practices are different, but when you play the 60 minutes, you really need to work hard and make sure your body feels good."

Varlamov has stopped 49-of-51 shots against through two preseason games, and he'll probably have some time off before getting back in the net. His next contest could possibly be the Avalanche's exhibition finale at the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.

Netminder Jonathan Bernier is slated to play in Monday's game at the Dallas Stars, the final contest of three in three days for the Avs. 

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