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Three-goal second period lifts Wild over Avalanche

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Clinging to a 4-3 lead and outshooting the opponent 39-32, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo was doing quick math on the bench as the clock ran down Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche.

"When they pulled their goalie, I was just hoping we'd get to 40 before they'd get to 33," Yeo said.

Mikko Koivu's second goal of the night, a backhander into an open net, was indeed Minnesota's 40th shot of the night and closed out an impressive 5-3 win over Colorado at Xcel Energy Center.

It was a three-goal second period that energized the home team as the Wild put a trio past Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov in a span of just over three minutes. Varlamov faced a barrage of shots in the second -- 19 in all -- and made 28 saves by the end of 40 minutes.

The bevy of chances saw the Wild turn a 1-1 tie after one into a 4-2 lead after two.

After the game, Avalanche players talked about a lack of desperation during a second period when everything seemed to go wrong and every mistake seemed to compound with another one just after.

"They outworked us in that second period, they outcompeted us, they won more battles," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We talked about a couple of things before the game: a high compete level, which I didn't see in the second period."

Devin Setoguchi scored his sixth goal of the season to open the floodgates, but Matt Cullen did much of the work. The veteran center sped by Colorado defenseman Greg Zanon and put a shot on net that Varlamov stopped, but a crashing Setoguchi poked home the rebound at 8:01.

Just 1:42 later, the Wild went up 3-1 on a snipe from the left dot by rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin, his first NHL goal.

"It took a while to get my first goal, but I'm just happy the team won. We played a good game tonight," Brodin said after appearing in his 23rd game. "We played good in the second period. It was a tough game tonight, but I think we controlled it pretty good."

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog pulled Colorado back within 3-2 23 seconds later, but the Wild re-established the two-goal edge on a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play. Zach Parise charged into the offensive zone and dished back to Ryan Suter in the slot. Suter one-touched it back to Parise, who tapped it to Koivu near the left post, where he fired it into an open net at 11:12 for his fifth of the season.

"I didn't know it was a 3-on-2 until our bench started yelling, so I looked back and saw Ryan," Parise said. "I knew Ryan was going to give it back to me and I had my mind made up to try and get it across to Mikko."

Parise's second pass caught Varlamov completely off guard -- the goaltender was well out of his crease expecting a shot on the return feed by Suter.

"I think he knows I like to shoot," Parise said.

The goal was Koivu's first in five games. Suter's three-assist night marked his fifth multipoint game of the season. He has 11 assists in Minnesota's past nine games.

"We talked about making sure we are hard on the body, finishing our checks, managing the puck well -- all things we got away from in the second period," Sacco said. "We hung Varly out to dry. You can't keep doing that to your goaltender and expect to win games."

Minnesota grabbed the early lead when Cullen fed Torrey Mitchell in front with a pass from the right corner. Mitchell, who had an early goal wiped away Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, buried his second of the year with a wrister 3:04 into the game.

"Big goal and a big start by [Mitchell]," Parise said. "To get us on the board, get us going and make us feel good. It's easier to play with a lead."

Colorado tied it in the waning stages of the first period on a power-play goal by PA Parenteau, whose off-speed knuckler wobbled past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom with 25.4 seconds left.

The Avalanche made it 4-3 midway through the third period when Parenteau scored his second of the night with 13:17 remaining. Defenseman Erik Johnson fired a shot intentionally wide to the right of Backstrom, and the puck caromed off the end boards right to Parenteau in front for his 12th of the season.

"They're a very skilled team. They come at you," Yeo said. "They find ways to get chances, and that's not an easy team to play against."

Colorado pulled Varlamov with just over a minute to play and had a couple of good scoring chances, but Koivu added his second of the night on a backhander into the empty net with 33.3 seconds remaining.

Backstrom made 29 saves, including a close-in try by Ryan O'Reilly in the final minute, to earn his 12th victory. Varlamov stopped 35 shots.

Yeo was especially pleased by the play of his veterans, mentioning Cullen and Clayton Stoner as well as his entire third line of Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck, which didn't figure into scoring but played energetic minutes all night.

"I can go through a lot of guys," Yeo said. "Our leadership has been very, very solid lately and their play backed it up tonight."

The Avalanche have lost eight games in a row on the road and are 2-9-3 away from Pepsi Center.

"We have to find ways to win on the road. It's unacceptable right now, the record we have on the road," Parenteau said. "We have to find a way as a team to fix that. It's a short season, we're running out of time here."

Minnesota is 2-0-1 against Colorado this season, with all three games in St. Paul. The teams play their first game in Denver on Saturday.

The victory moved the Wild six points ahead of the Avalanche in the Northwest Division and into a tie for fifth place in the Western Conference.

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