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Mitchell's overtime goal lifts Avalanche past Wild

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Frustrated by their lack of success in recent games against the Minnesota Wild, the Colorado Avalanche gained a measure of confidence Monday with a 2-1 overtime win at Pepsi Center against their Central Division rivals.

John Mitchell scored at 3:35 of the extra period after accepting a pass from Matt Duchene. He cut to the front of the net and put the puck past Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper.

"[Duchene] brought a guy up to him, he kind of bit on him and passed it down low," Mitchell said. "I just tried to get to the middle of the ice as quick as I could and shoot it high glove."

Semyon Varlamov made 19 saves for the Avalanche (12-15-1), who defeated the Wild (14-7-5) for the first time in three games this season. Kuemper had 18 saves.

The Wild were dominant against the Avalanche since winning a seven-game Stanley Cup Playoff series in 2014. They shut out Colorado four times in seven games heading into Monday and had won eight of the past nine.

"They've had our number for a little while here," Mitchell said. "We didn't want to let them get back in the game and even get the game to overtime. [Varlamov] played great for us; kudos to him. He was awesome."

Zach Parise tied the game for the Wild with 6:09 left in the third period with his first goal in six games since returning from a knee injury. Jason Pominville passed from behind the net to Mikael Granlund, who was standing to Varlamov's right. He took a shot and Varlamov made a pad save, but Parise was right in front and had multiple attempts at the loose puck before it went in.

"He made a good save on me on that first whack and the rebound, luckily it stayed right there," Parise said. "So I was able to get the second by him."

Parise had a hat trick against the Avalanche in the season opener on Oct. 8 when the Wild rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit for a 5-4 win.

Varlamov has struggled this season, but he's 2-1-0 in his past three games with a 1.31 goals-against average and .955 save percentage. The loss came Saturday, a 3-0 defeat in Minnesota where he denied 41 of 43 shots.

The pace of the game Monday was completely different. The Avalanche and Wild combined for 10 shots in the first period, 13 in the second and 10 in the third.

"It was a real hard fought game," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I was really pleased with the way we played defensively. We had to bounce back with a performance like this. I thought it was playoff hockey. Everyone had to fight for that inch of space out there. That was the type of game I wanted to see from our team."

Wild coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate that he expected the Avalanche to play a much better than they did Saturday, and he was right.

"They played well positionally," Yeo said. "That's their game right now. They're working their neutral zone forecheck and they've got numbers back. They had the same structure last game, but we had a quicker attack, quick ups before they got set into position, quick to take ice when ice is available, whereas tonight we let the game slow down."

Tyson Barrie gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead at 4:13 of the second period to complete a tic-tac-toe passing play with Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau. Comeau fed Soderberg during a rush into the Wild end, and Soderberg passed across to Barrie cutting to the net for a chip shot inside the right post.

"It was a great pass by Carl," Barrie said. "I just had to go to the net and put my stick down."

The goal ended the Avalanche's scoreless stretch of 116:06 against the Wild, covering parts of three games since Mitchell scored at 8:07 of the second period in the season opener.

"It was a tight game," Barrie said. "They always play like that. They're our rival and we hate 'em. They've had our number the last few times and it feels good to get this one. It's been frustrating."

There weren't many shots or scoring chances in regulation, but Varlamov and Kuemper made some good saves. Kuemper denied Andreas Martinsen driving to the net early in the first period and he thwarted Nathan MacKinnon in the slot late in the second.

Varlamov denied two shots on the Wild's first-period power play and made successive saves against Parise and Granlund midway through the second. He made another save against Nino Niederreiter with 53.2 seconds left in the period.

"It doesn't matter how many shots, sometimes it's only five shots and three goals. It's been happening to me," said Varlamov, who got a piece of his blocker on a shot from Ryan Suter 31 seconds into overtime. "Forty shots or 10 shots, I have to stay focused all the time and try to stop them."

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