Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Hejduk lifts Avalanche over Wild on 37th birthday

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Instead of getting gifts on his 37th birthday, Milan Hejduk gave his teammates a lift.

Hejduk scored in regulation -- his 800th career point -- and in a shootout as the Colorado Avalanche snapped a three-game winless streak, beating the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday.

"A couple guys ask me this morning what I want for my birthday," Hejduk joked. "I said I'd like to get a win and put a smile on everybody's face in the locker room, which happened, so that's cool."

Jean-Sebastien Giguere, making just his second start of the season for Colorado (5-6-1), stopped 26 shots through overtime and two more in the shootout, and the Avalanche got regulation goals from Aaron Palushaj, Hejduk and Matt Duchene, who also scored in the shootout.

"This is a fun building to play in," said Giguere, who made his mark in the NHL with the Ducks a decade ago, shutting out the Wild twice in Minnesota during the 2003 Western Conference finals. "There's always a lot of people and a good atmosphere. The ice is good, the lights are good, so you come here and it's easy to be ready to have fun."

The offensively-challenged Wild (6-6-2), who had scored just one regulation goal in each of their previous six games, got on the board courtesy of Zach Parise in the second period, and got third period goals from Mike Rupp and Mikko Koivu, but could not score in overtime or the shootout.

"Our big guys were very good. It's a shame to waste a performance like that," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, choosing his words very carefully. "It was there to be taken, if you do the things to take it. There was a lack of urgency, I would say, in a lot of areas. I don't think we were prepared to play the right way."

After a scoreless first period in which Parise had as many shots on goal -- five -- as Colorado's team, the Avalanche scored the game's first goal via an unlikely play and from an unlikely source. Minnesota, normally rock-solid defensively, got caught with a defenseman out of position, surrendering a 2-on-1 rush by Colorado. That allowed David Jones to zip a pass across the front of the crease to Palushaj, who snapped a rising shot into the upper right corner of the net. For Palushaj, playing in just his second game of the season, it was his first goal for the Avalanche and just the second of his NHL career.

Parise tied the game a bit later in the second, corralling a deflected shot behind the Colorado net and scoring on a wraparound shot before Giguere could slide over to cover the far post. It was Parise's seventh goal of the season but just his second in the past nine games.

Hejduk put the Avalanche back on top later in the period after Minnesota tough guy Zenon Konopka had been sent to the penalty box for roughing. Hejduk snapped a shot past Niklas Backstrom for a 2-1 Colorado lead. In contrast to Yeo, the Avalanche coach was delighted with his team's effort.

"A lot of good things in our game tonight, but most importantly the two points which we wanted," said Joe Sacco. "Our guys fought hard tonight, they had to battle for every inch of ice out there. When you do that usually you get rewarded."

Rupp tied it at 2-2 in the third with his first goal since coming over in a trade from the Rangers 10 days earlier, poking a loose puck in the crease past Giguere. A few minutes later Koivu ignited the crowd with a backhander that eluded Giguere's glove for Minnesota's first lead of the game. But their 3-2 advantage lasted less than a minute, when Matt Duchene re-tied the game, banking a puck off Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and into the net from a spot behind the goal line.

"Bottom line was we lost," said Parise afterward. "Whether it was 1-0 or 4-3, we still lost. When you work and you get that lead, it's tough when you give up a goal right away, the next shift."

Backstrom finished with 29 saves for Minnesota, which has two days off before a Sunday afternoon home game with the Red Wings. Colorado plays next on Saturday in Edmonton.

NOTES: After what amounted to a five-game tryout with the Wild, rookie forward Charlie Coyle was sent back down to the team's AHL affiliate in Houston on Thursday. Coyle had six shots on goal but no goals or assists in his first NHL stint, which included more than two full games with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise on the Wild's top line. ... Former Wild and Avalanche forward Andrew Brunette spent his first game in the press box on Thursday night as a member of Minnesota's hockey operations staff. Brunette, 39, officially announced his retirement this week and was hired as an adviser with the Wild. He played 1,110 NHL games over the course of 16 seasons with the Capitals, Predators, Thrashers, Wild, Avalanche and Blackhawks. He was honored by both teams before the game, and dropped the ceremonial first puck. ... Concussions are becoming a headache for the Avalanche, claiming two of their more prominent players. Winger Gabriel Landeskog did not make the trip to Minnesota, missing his eighth consecutive game due to a head injury. Defenseman Erik Johnson also stayed home in Colorado, missing his first game of the season for the same ailment. ... The game was delayed for four minutes in the second period when a collision in the corner to the right of the Minnesota net dislodged a pane of glass.

Instantly join a new league.

League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Aug 27 9:00 am
View Comments (2)