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Avalanche squander lead late, beat Wild in shootout

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- It could have been better, but Colorado Avalanche coach Patrick Roy had few complaints after his team defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2 Saturday in a shootout at Pepsi Center to complete a sweep of the home-and-home series.

Ryan O'Reilly scored the lone goal in the shootout against goalie Josh Harding after the Avalanche squandered a 2-0 lead in the final 3:27 of regulation, allowing the Wild to escape with a valuable point.

"I knew if I came in on an angle I'd have a lot of options," O'Reilly said. "I was going to read off him and see what he did. If he gives me upstairs, I take a quick shot. If not, try to make a move to see if he opens up. It worked out for me."

O'Reilly was the Avalanche's third shooter. Harding made a save against PA Parenteau and Nathan MacKinnon shot wide.

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville in the tiebreaker.

"I was nervous, same as usual," Varlamov said of the Avalanche's first shootout this season. "None of the goalies, nobody, likes the shootouts. There's too much pressure on you. When O'Reilly scored, that one was real nice."

Varlamov has a 14-7 career record in shootouts and has stopped 58 of 74 shots for a .784 save percentage.

"I never had a shootout when I was playing, but I've been told that Varly is pretty solid in a shootout," Roy said. "I guess I was pretty confident that we could win that game. Ryan scored a super-nice goal, and Varly was outstanding. They sent their three best shooters, and I thought he was outstanding from the start of the game."

The Avalanche gained three points against the Wild in the Central Division standings over the teams' home-and-home series and are in third place with a 19-6-0 record and 38 points in 25 games. The Wild, who have gone 0-3-1 in their past four games, have a 15-8-5 record in 28 games.

"This is certainly good for us," Roy said. "If someone had said to me we would pick up three points on them on the weekend, I would be very happy. We would take it in a heartbeat. Now we are three points ahead of them, and we have three games in hand. That's pretty good."

Koivu forced overtime when he scored from the slot with 4.3 seconds remaining in regulation after Harding went to the bench for a sixth attacker. Koivu gained possession after Pominville prevented Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda from clearing the puck around the boards.

"He made a good play along the wall," Koivu said. "I got the loose puck and tried to make a quick shot. Just a couple of seconds to go and it happens fast. I had a chance like that earlier in the period, and I got another chance and it went in."

The Wild dominated the third period. They outshot the Avalanche 11-3 in the period and 37-25 for the game.

"We knew we were in for a battle," Roy said. "The game is 60 minutes, sometimes longer than that. This is why we play 60 minutes, and you have to finish it. We battled hard. It was two really good games. Both teams played well, and we came out with four points and they got one."

Wild coach Mike Yeo was happy to salvage a point when it looked like his team would come away empty-handed.

"That's a huge point for us," he said. "It was great the way we played the game. We probably out-chanced them 2-1. We lost the skill competition at the end of the game, the shootout, whatever you want to call it. Bottom line, I really believe we deserved the win in regulation.

"You could tell we were really getting into our game and starting to play the right way. It kept building as the game went on. Even when they scored that second goal, we were all over them. We couldn't get the equalizer and next thing you know it's 2-0. We did everything we could have, but their goalie was great."

The Wild pulled within 2-1 with 3:27 to play on a goal by Matt Cooke, who skated down the slot untouched and shot the puck by Varlamov's right arm. Varlamov was under siege throughout the period and made big saves against Koivu and Nino Niederreiter.

"What I like about him is he never lost his focus despite the fact that I didn't think we played as well defensively as I was hoping," Roy said of Varlamov. "I have to give credit to [the Wild], because I thought they played a really good game. They certainly deserved that point, to be honest with you."

MacKinnon put the Avalanche in front 2-0 at 12:56 of the second period shortly after Varlamov stopped Dany Heatley in the slot with a pad save.

It was the first time the rookie has scored in back-to-back games. MacKinnon scored what proved to be the winning goal Friday in the Avalanche's 3-1 win against the Wild in Minnesota.

John Mitchell, who set up Gabriel Landeskog's first-period goal, knocked the puck away from Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin along the right boards. The puck slid into the slot, where Wild defenseman Marco Scandella fanned on a clearing attempt. That enabled Mitchell to pass to MacKinnon, who was alone in the left circle for a quick shot that sailed past Harding.

Varlamov made a save against Torrey Mitchell on 2-on-1 rush earlier in the period to keep the Avalanche ahead.

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead at 2:22 of the first period on Landeskog's goal. Mitchell won a battle for the puck with Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner behind the net and passed to Landeskog, who beat Harding from a sharp angle on the left side.

The Wild nearly tied the game at 14:00 of the first on a wraparound attempt by Cooke. The puck slid behind Varlamov and lay on the goal line. Varlamov looked behind him, but Hejda, who was at the side of the net, managed to push the puck into the crease and Varlamov knocked it away.

Play continued for another 56 seconds before the next whistle, at which time a video review confirmed the puck never completely crossed the line.

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