DENVER - Marian Gaborik scored his sixth career hat trick and Manny Fernandez made a career high 40 saves as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Sunday night at Pepsi Center.
The loss left the Avalanche 2-2 on their pivotal five-game homestand, tightening the race in the Western Conference, where three teams are within striking distance of their 92 points and sixth-place status.
Jose Theodore made his Avalanche debut, relieving starter Peter Budaj after Budaj allowed two goals in the first 5:17 of the game.
Still donning his mask from the Canadiens, Theodore made several spectacular saves before Daniel Tjarnqvist's goal on the power play at 16:54 of the second period. Tjarnqvist sent a slap shot through a screen from the right point.
Gaborik's short-handed goal early in the third period made it 4-0. John-Michael Liles finally put the Avalanche on the board but he was out of position 24 seconds later as Gaborik scored for the third time.
Theodore, scheduled to make his first start Tuesday night against Phoenix, suited up Sunday night as the backup for the first time since the trade.
Budaj allowed Gaborik's first goal just 4 1/2 minutes into the game and then watched Pascal Dupuis tap in another less than a minute later.
Cody McCormick's fourth goal of the season at 15:52 of the third period made it 5-2 and took Budaj off the hook for the loss.
Manny Fernandez recorded his 30th victory tonight, becoming the first goalie in Wild history to win 30 games in a single season...Fernandez made a career high 40 saves tonight...His previous high was 39 done on four occasions...Marian Gaborik notched his sixth career hat trick...Joe Sakic extended his point streak to 13 games, equaling the second longest streak of his career...He also had a 13-game streak from Feb. 26-March 24, 1992...Sakic is now just one shy of tying his career long of 14 consecutive games with a point set Feb. 29-March 29, 2000...Sakic has compiled 24 points during this stretch, scoring nine goals with 15 assists and a +16 rating...Sakic's 13-game scoring streak matches the third longest streak in the NHL this season...Vaclav Prospal also had a 13-gamer, Joe Thornton 14 games and Dany Heatley 22 games...Daniel Tjarnqvist set a career high with three points tonight...The Avs and Wild wrapped up the season series tonight, with Colorado going 5-3 versus Minnesota this year, 3-1 on home ice and 2-2 on the road...The Avalanche closed out its 13th and final set of back-to-back games tonight...Including this weekend, the Avs split 11 of its 13 back-to-back outings...They swept one and also got swept in another...The Avs were 9-4 in the first game of a back-to-back set but 4-8-1 in the second half...The Avalanche recorded over 40 shots for the eighth time this season...Their season high is 48 shots-on-net, Jan. 7 vs. Columbus.
Jose Theodore: On playing for the first time since Jan. 31... "Overall, I'm just happy I was able to go in there and play a couple of periods. I was a little rusty on this-and-that and the little details. I made some good saves and a couple mistakes. Overall it was good to get the timing back and to play with my new teammates...seeing some of the style they like to play. And how we play in some situations. It's good I had a couple periods like that before I got my first start." On the playoff race... "I've been looking at the standings since I got traded here. It's really tight, there's a lot of teams that are really close. But I think we played well tonight but Manny (Fernandez) made some great saves to keep his team in the game."
John-Michael Liles: "They are not a team that takes a ton of chances and they capitalize on our mistakes. Manny Fernandez played well, no one is going to dispute that. But we have to play better. It's just one loss so we have to come back and play again and hopefully get a win. I don't think we've dug any holes. It's still in our hands."
Pierre Turgeon: "We have to keep shooting the puck. We have to get some rebounds. The thing we have to do a little bit better is having someone in front of the net, instead of besides the net. Obviously we got a lot of scoring chances. A little bit more traffic in front of the net would have been better." On Jose Theodore... "He's a big part of our team. I think he's been handling pressure pretty well. I think he's been feeling pressure. He played in Montreal for more than 10 years. So obviously he can handle the pressure. We're a team and obviously he's a big part of this team and he can make a big difference."
Manny Fernandez: On his 30th win... "It opens a lot of doors for me. 30 wins usually comes with a real No. 1 guy. It means you play a lot of games to get to 30. It gets me into an elite group. And in the NHL, if you can get up there, it's something to be proud of."
Marian Gaborik: "I tried to get out there and motivate myself. I think it's a big challenge to finish this season on a strong note. And also for the team, so at the end of the day, we want to know that we finished the season strong, even though we didn't make the playoffs. When the playoff picture isn't there anymore, it's hard to get motivated and get going. I think we're doing fine, especially these last few games. We need to try to push ourselves and go out and have fun."