When a team’s power play is lighting the lamp multiple times per game, the result after a two-minute advantage should be a goal or at least some momentum. Instead, it was the exact opposite for the Minnesota Wild in the first period. They gave up a shorthanded goal and turned momentum over to their opponent.
That’s a pretty rough turn of events.
Good thing the Wild had a solid goaltender in the net and the offense scored twice during the shootout to beat the Colorado Avalanche (11-8-2) by a 3-2 score on Black Friday at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild (11-8-3) outshot the Avalanche 6-0 in overtime, only to be denied by goaltender Jonathan Bernier on some grade-A chances. In the shootout, Charlie Coyle put the puck in the net for the first time this season, and after Alex Stalock stopped Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, Chris Stewart won it with a shot through the five-hole.
Stewart hadn’t scored since his six-goal barrage at the start of the season.
Stewart is now a 10-for-16 career shootout participant. He’s good, said coach Bruce Boudreau.
“Quite frankly, he was staring me down,” Boudreau said. “I was afraid that if I didn’t put him out, he’d get mad at me.”
That aforementioned power-play momentum shift came in the first period. The Wild grabbed a quick 1-0 lead at the 1:13 mark thanks to Jason Zucker’s team-leading 12th goal of the season. He accepted a behind-the-net feed from Eric Staal right in the middle of the slot. A few minutes later, the Wild cycled the puck for a long time and got some chances on a delayed penalty call.
Then everything went downhill.
The Wild looked to have trouble getting clean zone entries. The Avalanche didn’t even generate a shot on goal until about halfway through the first period. The second shot came when J.T. Compher went in alone for the second shorty allowed by the Wild this season. He tied the game at 10:23 of the first. The puck got by Wild defender Mike Reilly, who then fell down as Compher got his chance all alone.
Tough break for Stalock.
The Avalanche took a 2-1 lead five minutes later on a 2-on-1 play with Blake Comeau beating Stalock short-side.
The Wild managed a couple more shots on goal before the period was up. Mikko Koivu, looking for his first goal in 12 scoreless games, had a couple great chances in front. He would have had the goalie beat with an elevated puck.
Nino Niederreiter tied the game in the second period when he was left alone on the left side and fired a quick shot off a Koivu feed. The goal extended Niederreiter’s career-long streaks: Six-game goal streak (matching the franchise record), five-game power-play goal streak and eight-game point streak. He’s tallied 12 points in his 13 games since returning from injury.
When you’re hot, you’re hot.
It was a 2-2 game the rest of the way. The goaltenders had some shining moments, but the Wild also couldn’t get much going in the third period. For the bulk of it, they only had one shot on goal in the period and ended up with just three shots hitting the net in the third frame.
Stalock came up big for the Wild, as he has already this season. The game had a feel like Colorado could have been ahead 6-2. Stalock deserves lots of credit for his solid game and helping the Wild to even get to the overtime session.
“He just stood his ground, and he did a great job,” Boudreau said.
The Wild improve to 6-1-1 in their last eight games, they’ve beaten Colorado in four straight games and in 13 of the last 16 meetings.
Stalock (2-2-1) with 28 saves. Bernier (4-4-1) with 25 saves.
Compher’s first-period goal was the fourth shorty for Colorado this season, jumping into a tie for first in the NHL along with the Wild and other teams. It was only the second shorthanded goal the Wild have allowed this season.
Zucker broke a modest four-game goal drought with his tally in the first period.
Koivu is scoreless in 13 games, but he has assists in five straight games. He has eight assists on the power play this season. He also failed to score on his 100th shootout attempt.
Mikael Granlund got the other assist on the Niederreiter goal to extend his point streak to six games (4-6—10).
The Wild’s shootout record this season: 1-1.
A 1-for-2 power play for the Wild gives them power-play goals in five straight games for a total of eight during that time.
The Wild play a Central Division back-to-back as they head to St. Louis to faceoff against former Wild coach Mike Yeo and the first-place Blues. It’s a rematch of the first-round 2017 playoffs.
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