ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Knowing that a daunting seven-game trip awaited them, the Minnesota Wild wanted to leave home on a high note.
A win against a division rival helped them do just that.
Eric Staal put Minnesota ahead on the power play with 9:44 remaining, and Jonas Brodin had a late empty-netter as the Wild held on to beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Saturday night.
Staal’s goal came on the fifth power play of the night for Minnesota, which won its fifth straight. The Wild had failed to score with the man advantage until Staal’s shot from between the faceoff circles found its way past Semyon Varlamov.
“We made a little tweak on the power play and I think it opened up a little bit different of a threat,” Staal said.
Brodin’s empty-netter gave the Wild a 3-1 lead with 2:43 remaining. Colorado pulled Varlamov after going on the power play, but Minnesota won the faceoff in its own zone before Brodin fired the length of the rink to score.
“I got lucky on that one,” Brodin said. “I felt I could go for it. It’s a PK, too, so it’s not going to be icing. I went for it and I got lucky.”
Gabriel Landeskog scored in traffic for Colorado with 41.1 seconds remaining. Mark Barberio also scored for the Avalanche, and Mikael Granlund had Minnesota’s first goal, extending his point streak to seven games.
Devan Dubnyk made 30 saves for the Wild, while Varlamov stopped 25 shots.
Staal’s goal came after a penalty on Nikita Zadorov. Granlund and Jason Zucker assisted.
Minnesota is now 5-1-1 on the year when giving up the first goal. Saturday marked the first time all season Colorado lost after scoring first.
Colorado’s top line of Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen was held mostly in check. The trio entered Saturday with 53 points but was frustrated for most of the night by Minnesota’s defense.
“We had a lot of good chances, a lot of good looks,” MacKinnon said. “I guess you can’t score every time.”
Granlund’s shot at 7:15 of the second period found a bit of room between Varlamov and the pipe to even the game at 1-1, just seconds after Matt Calvert emerged from the penalty box.
Minnesota killed all six penalties, including 45 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage for Colorado. The Avalanche entered Saturday’s game with the eighth-best power play in the league (27.5 percent). Minnesota came in having scored on 11.5 percent of its power plays, which was 27th in the league.
“Special teams in games like this win you games,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They were the difference, I thought.”
Minnesota and Colorado have each won a game in the rivalry so far this year. The Avalanche won 4-1 in the season opener on Oct. 1.
“We did some good things. But we can’t be happy with a loss,” Barberio said. “I know it’s early, but this division’s too good and too tight to drop points.”
Avalanche: At Calgary on Thursday night.
Wild: Visit Vancouver on Monday night in the opener of a seven-game trip. Minnesota won’t play at home again until Nov. 13.
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