Devin Lowe gives three takeaways from the Wild's 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday afternoon at the Pepsi Center in Denver:
1. Minnesota has struggled to generate shots as of late, but had no problem getting pucks to the net in the first frame.
The Wild (6-4-1) has found early success through strong goaltending from Devan Dubnyk and an exceptional penalty kill percentage (96.3 percent through 10 games -- the League's best). But Minnesota hasn't been shooting as often as other teams, resulting in the Wild owning the League's worst shots-per-game average of 26.1.
That didn't look to be an issue in the first period of the first meeting of the year between the Wild and its Central Division rival, the Colorado Avalanche (5-5-0). Minnesota peppered Avalanche netminder Calvin Pickard with shots, 15 in all by the period's end.
All but one defenseman had at least a shot, and two of Minnesota's most recent call-ups from Iowa, forwards Jordan Schroeder and Christoph Bertschy, spent much of their ice time in the offensive zone, recording five of the Wild's 15 shots.
The first period ended scoreless, but each line had its chances, winning the kind of one-on-one battles that helped the Wild generate scoring opportunities.
2. A 5-on-3 chance for Colorado early in the second period gave Minnesota the chance to show where it shines.
As Avs forward Blake Comeau sped into the offensive zone for a breakaway chance on Dubnyk, Ryan Suter took a slashing penalty trying to take away Comeau's shot. A few seconds later, as the referee raised his arm, Matt Dumba cross-checked Comeau between the numbers, giving the Avalanche the full two minutes of a 5-on-3 man advantage.
In keeping with the Wild's strong shorthanded record thus far, several players made killing the penalties look easy.
Jonas Brodin laid in front of shots by Colorado's Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog to keep them off the scoresheet. And Eric Staal, who's been more visible in the offensive zone for Minnesota as of late, outworked two Avalanche players along the boards to get a hard-earned clear.
All in all, the Wild showed it was unafraid to battle for the puck when shorthanded, and that should make coach Bruce Boudreau, who's lately focused heavily on board battles in practice, quite happy.
3. This contest was unlike many of the Wild's recent visits to the Pepsi Center, but the rivalry was as bitter as ever.
To put it lightly, Minnesota had been dominant against Colorado the past few seasons. The Wild entered 8-1-1 in its last 10 against the Avs and 4-0-1 in Denver. The last time Minnesota stormed the friendly confines of Pepsi Center, in March of 2016, it left with a decisive 4-0 shutout that dashed the Avalanche's playoff hopes.
The ice was not so tilted this time. Through two periods, the clubs were mostly even in every countable metric. Goals: 0 apiece. Shots: Minnesota 27, Colorado 22. Hits: Minnesota 6, Colorado 11. Penalties: Minnesota 2, Colorado 3.
Still, some things never change: A few scrums exposed the animosity that still defines this rivalry. Early in the third, Landeskog planted himself in Dubnyk's crease for a screen, and a few chops by Dubnyk led to a vertical wrestling match between the two behind the net.
It would be Landeskog that got the better of Dubnyk later: On a Colorado power play midway through the third frame, he beat Dubnyk five-hole to put the Avalanche ahead. The goal was the only one scored by either team on the day.
• At 4:19 of the third period, Devan Dubnyk took hold of the record for the longest individual road shutout streak in Wild history. Dubnyk's record was capped at 170:23 following Landeskog's goal. Niklas Backstrom set the previous record of 164:19 between Dec. 20, 2008 and Jan. 8, 2009.
• Landeskog's power-play tally was only the second man-advantage goal Minnesota has allowed this season. The other belongs to Toronto's Auston Matthews. The Wild's penalty kill percentage fell to 93.5 percent after Saturday's game.
• Pickard, starting in place of Semyon Varlamov, made 32 saves for his third career shutout.
Devin's Three Stars
* Calvin Pickard
** Devan Dubnyk
*** Gabriel Landeskog