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game recap

Avalanche defeat Wild in exhibition game in NHL return

Rantanen, Makar assist on winning goal in Cup Qualifiers tuneup

by Rick Sadowski / Independent Correspondent

Landeskog's power-play goal

COL@MIN: Landeskog cleans up loose puck for PPG

Gabriel Landeskog cleans up a loose puck in front of the net for a power-play goal, giving the Avalanche a 3-2 lead

  • 00:32 •

Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar assisted on the game-winning goal for the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-2 victory against the Minnesota Wild in an exhibition game at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday.

Rantanen missed the final 12 games of the regular season, which was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, with a shoulder injury. Makar missed three practices during training camp with an undisclosed injury.

The top-line forward and rookie defenseman looked healthy setting up the winning goal. During an Avalanche 5-on-3 power play early in the second period, Rantanen passed the puck to Makar between the face-off circles for a shot, and forward Gabriel Landeskog scored on the rebound to put Colorado ahead 3-2 at 4:31.

"It was a hard-fought game," said Rantanen, who had one shot on goal in 16:10 of ice time playing on a line with Andre Burakovsky and Nathan MacKinnon. It was his first game since Feb. 17. "We knew the first game back after a four- or five-month break would be hard, and it was like that. Execution wasn't really there and stuff like that, but it's going to get better from here."

MacKinnon and Joonas Donskoi scored for the Avalanche, and Landeskog also had an assist. Phillip Grubauer started and made 18 saves on 20 shots in 30:20 of ice time. Pavel Francouz made 14 saves in 29:30.

"I think [Rantanen and Makar] had flashes of good play," Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. "I actually kind of felt like Mikko got better as the game went on and made more of an impact. It's a little tough to judge because I thought the game was a little sloppy and scrambly. With all the penalties both teams took (17), there wasn't a lot of flow to the game, so it was kind of tough to keep everyone engaged.

"Cale I thought was a little bit rusty, but he, too, got better as the game went on. I thought he didn't have a great first period. He made some good puck plays and was dangerous a couple times, but on the checking side of it he needed to be more engaged, much like the rest of our group."

Video: MacKinnon, Landeskog lead Avalanche past Wild

The Avalanche play the St. Louis Blues on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN360, TVAS2, ALT, FS-MW) in their first game of the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which will determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference. They'll also play the Dallas Stars (Aug. 6) and Vegas Golden Knights (Aug. 8).

Eric Staal had a goal and an assist for the Wild, and Matt Dumba scored. Alex Stalock started and made 14 saves on 17 shots playing 30:22. Devan Dubnyk made 12 saves in 27:35.

"We saw some real good things from both of them," Wild coach Dean Evason said of Stalock and Dubnyk. "Both of them had areas of the game that they had barrages and held up extremely well. Obviously we're going to have a very difficult decision (picking a starter), and something we're going to have to talk about a lot over the next few days."

The Wild, the No. 10 seed in the West, play the Vancouver Canucks, the No. 7 seed, in a best-of-5 Cup Qualifier series that starts Sunday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, FS-N, FS-WI). The series winner advances to the playoffs.

"I felt like I settled in as the game went on," Stalock said. "You're playing against one of the fastest teams in the League in Colorado and one of the fastest players in the world in Nathan McKinnon. You go back and look at the tape and see that you had more time in spots where you felt like you were rushed.

"I just want to be the best I can every night and give the team the best chance to win. We got depth at the position in the organization. It's a battle for the job [Game 1]. We both want to be in there, but either one of us will give the team the chance to win."

Donskoi scored to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead at 1:25 of the first period. The Wild tied it on Dumba's 4-on-3 power-play goal at 3:05.

MacKinnon's goal put Colorado ahead 2-1 at 4:47, and Staal scored to make it 2-2 at 14:06.

"First game after a long break, lot of power plays," Staal said. "We'll work at it here the next couple of days. We definitely have to clean up that area a bit. Everybody knows what they're doing. That next power play you want to score, doesn't matter what happened previously."

The Avalanche were 1-for-5 on the power play, the Wild were 1-for-8.

The Stanley Cup Qualifiers -- eight best-of-5 series and two four team round-robins -- begin Saturday. Each of the 24 participating teams plays one exhibition game, with six in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city, and six in Edmonton, the Western hub city.

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