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Heatley steals show in Wild win over Avalanche

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With all the talk surrounding the Minnesota Wild debuts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, it was Dany Heatley who stole the show at Saturday's season opener.

The veteran forward scored a pair of goals, including the 350th of his career, as the Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,298 at Xcel Energy Center, the sixth-largest turnout in franchise history.

Parise was pretty good too. Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped a close-in shot by Parise early in the second period, but the rebound came free to Heatley, who buried his first of the night, tying the score 1-1.

Later in the period, Parise gained control in the right corner and fed Heatley in front. Varlamov stopped the first chance but Heatley slammed home the second one to make it 3-1 at 10:01.

"I was smiling the day we signed these guys and I'm still smiling," Heatley said. "They've added a huge element to our team."

Sandwiched was the first career goal of Wild center Mikael Granlund, who redirected a point shot by defenseman Jared Spurgeon into the net less than a minute after Heatley's first goal.

The quick offensive burst erased a miserable first period for the Wild, who spent much of the opening 20 minutes chasing the Avalanche around the rink.

"We got a little lucky there, a couple of pucks, couple of scrambles," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "As quick as it was, our start was pretty good. But after a couple shifts, we were on our toes. They scored and we got derailed."

The Avs jumped ahead 2:07 into the game when John Mitchell slammed home a rebound off a scramble in front of Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom.

Colorado had two power plays in the first period and almost extended its lead but could not find the net again despite holding a 12-5 edge in shots. Backstrom played a big role in that by making 11 saves.

"He made some huge saves," Heatley said.

Avs coach Joe Sacco said the inability to get another goal while dominating play was costly.

"The start was everything we hoped for," Sacco said. "We came out, we were skating, we played a simple game, putting the puck behind their D. We had some chances to make it 2-0 and we weren't able to capitalize.

"There's no question, penalties on us changed the momentum of that game. Before that, everything was going pretty good, we were in control and in charge. Gotta stay out of the box."

Cody McLeod's goal early in the third period pulled Colorado within 3-2, and a shot at a wide-open net by Steve Downie with just over three minutes left in regulation rang the right post.

Less than two minutes later, Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard buried a rebound of his own shot from the bottom of the left circle for some insurance.

"This was a long time coming, this game," Yeo said. "This lockout, especially here in Minnesota, with the excitement there's been around here, it was good to get a win for our fans."

Despite allowing four goals, Varlamov was superb in goal, stopping 31 shots. Backstrom made 25 saves.

Minnesota will host Dallas on Sunday evening in the second of back-to-back games for both teams. The Stars defeated Phoenix 4-3 in Dallas on Saturday.

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