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Avalanche beat Wild in first of home-and-home series

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When trying to decide his starting goaltender for the front half of a back-to-back against the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy got some sage advice from Avs goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

Allaire's suggestion to go with Jean-Sebastien Giguere paid off when the 36-year-old made 16 of his 27 saves in the third period Friday to help the Avalanche beat the Wild 3-1 at Xcel Energy Center.

Giguere is a perfect 6-0-0 this season. He's the first goaltender in franchise history to start a season by winning his first six decisions.

"Obviously, I've been a bit disconnected the last 10 years, but Francois said, 'He can do no wrong in [Minnesota],'" Roy said. "He played outstanding again tonight."

Watching Giguere in the third period must have been like traveling back in time for many Wild fans. Ten years ago, it was Giguere who allowed one goal in a four-game sweep of Minnesota in the 2003 Western Conference Final as a member of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks - a series that ended what is still the Wild's most successful Stanley Cup Playoff run.

"I've always said it's a great building," Giguere said. "Especially this year, they have a real good team, [Wild goaltender Josh] Harding's been playing well, for me, I had to make sure I would come in here and compete and keep the game as tight as possible."

Colorado was able to give Giguere some early support by scoring 3:45 into the game when defenseman Jan Hejda fired a shot from the point through traffic that beat Harding for his third of the season.

Perhaps the game's biggest turning point came towards the end of the period when Colorado's Cody McLeod was assessed a major penalty for boarding Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin at 17:24, giving Minnesota a five-minute power play. But the Wild mustered one shot during the long advantage, and less than two minutes after it expired, Gabriel Landeskog's shot from the point was tipped in front by Nathan MacKinnon and went past Harding at 4:34 of the second period. It was the fourth goal of the season for the first player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft.

"It was great to kill that one because certainly things could have turned in their favor if they would score," Roy said.

Colorado had the best scoring chance during the major penalty, but John Mitchell's tap-in shot on a 2-on-1 break was turned away by a sprawling Harding. The Wild's power play, once one of the best in the NHL, is in a 3-for-29 slump.

"It's huge. It's huge. I don't even think we brought enough momentum out of it," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "It's one thing not to score on it, you come out it with not a good feeling. It's one thing if their goalie robs you or you hit a couple pipes. We sunk down a little bit after that and they rose up."

Dany Heatley pulled the Wild within one at 15:02, taking a backdoor feed from Nino Niederreiter and scoring his sixth of the season. After a slow start, Heatley has scored four goals and five points in Minnesota's last six games.

"It seems to take us a 2-0 deficit right now to find the urgency level to be effective in the game," Yeo said. "We seem to think we're pretty good and we don't need to do things that brought us success. Hopefully we're taking a lesson, we're taking notes."

Heatley's goal galvanized the Wild in the third as they peppered Giguere with chances from in close, but he was up to the task. Landeskog sealed the win by hitting the empty net with 20 seconds remaining.

"I remember, my dad had season tickets here," Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, a native of nearby Bloomington, Minn., said of the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs. "That's kind of fun to watch that and then play with him now. To see him do well, it's pretty fun."

The Wild lost despite the return of forward Zach Parise, who played four days after taking a puck off his left foot in a loss to the St. Louis Blues. The team said Tuesday that Parise was expected to miss at least two weeks. Parise had four shots on goal and was minus-2 in 23:03 of ice time.

Colorado will look to extend Minnesota's losing streak to four when the two teams play again in Denver on Saturday.

"The home-and-homes are fun," Johnson said. "That's how rivalries are built."

The victory pulled the Avalanche ahead of the Wild in the standings. Colorado is third in the Central with 36 points but has three games in hand on fourth-place Minnesota, which has 34 points.

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