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Giguere frustrates Wild as Avs cruise

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Seeing Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere frustrate the Minnesota Wild is really nothing new. He's been doing it for more than a decade now.

On Friday, Giguere recorded 27 saves and improved to 6-0-0 for the season in a 3-1 win over the Wild. Left winger Gabriel Landeskog scored a goal and set up goals by defenseman Jan Hejda and center Nathan MacKinnon as the Avalanche built a lead and withstood a Minnesota rally.

It was the fourth win in the past five games for Colorado.

Giguere, who first made his name known to Minnesota fans in 2003 when he was with the Anaheim Ducks and shut out the Wild three times in a four-game playoff series, improved to 16-12-5 for his career vs. Minnesota.

"I've always said it's a great building, it's a fun building to come into," Giguere said, of his long history of facing the Wild. "There are always a lot of people here watching and this year especially they have a really good team. (Wild goalie Josh) Harding has been playing well, so I knew I had to come in and keep the game as tight as possible."

Left winger Dany Heatley scored the only goal for Minnesota, which lost its third game in a row.

The Wild dominated the final 20 minutes, outshooting the Avalanche 16-5, but could not get the equalizer, and were doomed by another slow start.

"It seems to take us a 2-0 deficit right now to find the urgency to be effective in the game," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We seem to think that we're pretty good and we don't need to do some of the things that brought us success, some of the things that we need to do to be successful. Hopefully we're taking a lesson, we're taking notes."

Harding made seven saves in the first period and 18 for the game, but the first shot of the day eluded him. Hejda, who had gone more than a month without a goal, unleashed a shot from the blue line that found its way through a crowd, beating Harding low.

Both teams had personnel losses in the opening 20 minutes that forced the coaches to juggle lines.

For Minnesota, center Zenon Konopka headed to the dressing room after a puck hit him in the face. He did not return to the game and reportedly was taken to a local hospital with an eye injury.

A few minutes later, Colorado lost left winger Cody McLeod when he ran Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin into the boards in front of the Avalanche bench, touching off a brief shoving match. McLeod, who served a five-game suspension for a hard hit along the boards earlier this season, was given a five-minute major penalty and ejected from the game.

"The hit, I doubt he gets suspended for it but it's kind of one of those plays that's in between," Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson said. "It's kind of a tough judgment call. They'll probably say it was dirty. We'll probably say it was clean but at the end of the day that's for somebody else to decide."

Minnesota managed just one shot on goal during the extended power play, missing an opportunity to tie the score and capture some momentum. Instead, the Avalanche doubled their lead when a long-range shot by MacKinnon deflected off the stick of Wild defenseman Keith Ballard and past Harding.

The Wild found their way onto the scoreboard late in the second period when Heatley notched his sixth goal of the season, slamming home a pass from right winger Nino Niederreiter.

"I thought we played really well in the first 40 minutes but in the third period obviously they played with more urgency," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "They wanted to get that goal to tie the game. We played well enough defensively. We had some moments where we weren't as sharp and (Giguere) had those big saves."

Perhaps the biggest boost for Minnesota came before the game. Leading scorer Zach Parise, the team's top-line left winger, skated in warm-ups and felt good enough to play.

"He's a warrior. That's what he is. He wants to be out there," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "It's a great attribute to a good player. It's good that he wants to play. The top players, you need those guys and he's one of our best players. It says a lot that he wanted to play."

Parise, who took a St. Louis Blues slap shot off his left foot Monday, was originally expected to miss two to three weeks. Instead, he missed just one game -- Wednesday's 3-1 home loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Landeskog scored into an empty net with 19.7 seconds left.

NOTES: Wild F Mike Rupp, who missed more than a month due to injury, was given designated non-roster status and is leaving the team temporarily for personal reasons. Rupp, who played in two games for the Wild, is dealing with a death in the family. ... Minnesota and Colorado were rivals in the NHL's now-defunct Northwest Division for a dozen seasons, and have met in the first round of the NHL playoffs twice. Now in the new Central Division, Friday's game was the first of five head-to-head matchups they will have this season. ... Former University of Minnesota star C Erik Haula made his NHL debut for the Wild on Friday. He was second on the team in scoring for the Wild's AHL affiliate in Iowa, with 10 points in 18 minor league games. ... Avalanche C Paul Stastny, who is dealing with back spasms, was scratched for the second consecutive game. He entered the night second on the team with 17 points. ... The Avalanche and Wild will complete their two-game home-and-home set with a Saturday game in Denver.
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