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Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 4, Avalanche 3

Wild matches franchise bests in single-season wins and points with victory in Denver

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /'s Dan Myers gives three takeaways from the Wild's 4-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center in Denver on Thursday night:

1. During Frozen Four weekend, it was the Wild's two Colorado collegians that got Minnesota (48-25-8) on the board in the first period.

Denver University's Jason Zucker scored the game's first goal 10 seconds in before Colorado College alum Nate Prosser made it 2-0 on a shot through traffic later in the period.

"That's always nice, kinda gets your confidence back a little bit, gets you into the game a little bit sooner," Zucker said. "I don't know if there's a better way to start a game."

The Wild dominated the first, securing four of the five scoring chances for both teams in the period. 

It was Prosser's second goal of the season, which ties a career high. It was also his second goal in his past three games. 

Video: MIN@COL: Prosser picks the corner with a wrister

Prosser's shot from the left point was set up with a nifty feed from Charlie Coyle, who also assisted on Zucker's opening tally. For Coyle, it was his 13th career multi-assist game and second in the past five games. He now has at least one point in four of the past five games, posting one goal and five assists during that stretch.

Zach Parise also assisted on the goal, extending his point streak to three games.

2. Zucker's goal matched his own franchise record for fastest to start a game, first done against Winnipeg in 2015.

It was a solid welcome back to the lineup for Zucker, who missed the past two games with a lower-body injury. Whatever was ailing the speedy winger the last few days didn't appear to rear its head on the play, as Zucker beat Avalanche goaltender Calvin Pickard to a loose puck between the right post and the corner just 10 seconds into the game. 

"That was a lucky play," Zucker said. "The goalie, he kind of hesitated a bit, so I thought I could jump on it. Great play by [Coyle], getting it in and a fortunate bounce."

Video: MIN@COL: Zucker nets wraparound 10 seconds into game

Zucker finished the play by orbiting around the goal and beating Pickard with a wrap-around try for his 22nd goal of the season, establishing a new career high in that category. 

"That's what we wanted to do as far as a planned play," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I didn't expect it to go in the net, but that was a planned play to get it deep."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Postgame at Colorado

3. Speaking of new career highs, Nino Niederreiter stayed hot with his 25th goal of the season almost seven minutes into the third period.

Video: MIN@COL: Niederreiter finishes Staal's cross-ice dish

The 25 goals bested his previous high set in 2014-15. After going 16 games without a goal, Niederreiter now has five over his past five games, getting hot at just the right time.

"I'm really happy with that whole line [of Niederreiter, Parise, Staal]," Boudreau said. "They started the third period by getting some zone time and getting some opportunities and then they finally got rewarded."

After watching its two-goal lead deteriorate with a sub-par second period, Minnesota stomped on the accelerator against Colorado (22-55-3) midway through the third, beginning with Niederreiter's tally and continuing less than four minutes later when Mikael Granlund re-established the two-goal advantage.

Video: MIN@COL: Granlund picks the corner from sharp angle

Granlund's goal was his first since March 19, ending a drought of nine games. 

"You try to remind them about what happened to Chicago the other day [when the Blackhawks blew a 3-0 lead in a 4-3 loss]," Boudreau said. "We were lucky enough to get out of the second period with a tie and had a chance to regroup and come back in the third."

Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk stopped 30 shots to secure his 40th victory of the year.

"Not a lot of guys each year get to 40 wins. It's a good bar to set," Dubnyk said. "I thought I was going to get a little higher at the beginning of March. It took a little longer to get to 40 than I planned on. If you told me at the start of the year that I was going to finish with 40 wins, I'd probably say, 'Yeah, sure.'"

Video: Locker Room Postgame at Colorado

The win was Minnesota's 48th of the season, giving it 104 points -- each total tying a franchise record.

BONUS TAKE:The Wild's first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs also became clearer.

Minnesota was already likely to play the St. Louis Blues entering the day, and that result that became even more apparent after the Blues rallied for a 6-3 win over the Florida Panthers. 

The only other opponent the Wild could play in the first round, the Nashville Predators, also won (7-3 over Dallas). Still, Nashville remains one point behind the Blues for third place in the Central Division. St. Louis also has a game in hand. 

It's now pretty simple to decipher Minnesota's first-round opponent: If the Blues capture one point in either of their final two games (Saturday at Carolina or Sunday at home against Colorado), the Wild and Blues will tangle in Round 1. 

If St. Louis loses both games in regulation and Nashville wins its finale on Saturday in Winnipeg, the Predators would travel to St. Paul for Game 1 next week. 

Loose pucks

• Granlund's goal gave him 26, one behind Eric Staal for the team lead. His 69 points are tied for fourth-most in a single season in team history. 

• Prosser added an assist on Granlund's goal for his first career two-point game in the NHL.

• Minnesota improved to 10-1-2 when Niederreiter has at least two points. 

• The Wild improved to 26-4-2 when leading after one period.

• Colorado's Tyson Jost scored his first career NHL goal in the second period.

• Pickard finished with 24 saves.

• Attendance: 15,565

He said it

"It's exciting. It also gives us an opportunity to pass it on Saturday, not just tie it on Saturday. It's been a great season for us. You know, the talk hasn't been what we wanted it to be over the last little while. This is what we've been doing for 90 percent of the year. This is what we're used to. This is what we're expecting." -- Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk on tying the team record with 104 points this season

They said it

"It's special. It's nice to do it in front of the home crowd. Hopefully, there's going to many more of those at home and on the road, too. It's just disappointing that we couldn't get that win." -- Avalanche forward Tyson Jost on his first NHL goal

Dan's three stars

* Nino Niederreiter

** Nate Prosser

*** Charlie Coyle

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