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Scandinavians carry Wild past Avalanche

The SportsXchange

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- For the countless Minnesotans who claim Scandinavian heritage, their hockey team's most recent win made them doubly proud.

Swedish rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin scored his first NHL goal, and Finnish captain Mikko Koivu scored twice as the Wild continued their winning ways at home, holding off the Colorado Avalanche for a 5-3 victory Thursday.

Koivu capped a pretty passing play with a tap-in goal, then added an empty-netter to seal the win.

"That's what you need, to create," said Koivu, who leads the Wild with 22 points. "We've been talking that as a team we've been doing a lot better job of that lately."

The Wild, now 10-3-1 at home, also got goals from Torrey Mitchell and Devin Setoguchi to gain two important points in the tight Northwest Division race.

P.A. Parenteau scored twice for the Avalanche, who never held a lead but refused to go away in the opener of a home-and-home set with Minnesota. The teams will play again Saturday afternoon in Denver.

"That's a tough team to play against," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "They're a very skilled team, and they come at you. They find ways to get chances."

The teams traded goals in the opening 20 minutes, with Mitchell giving the Wild an early lead, and the Avalanche answering with a power-play goal in the final minute of the first period. Parenteau misfired on a shot from the point, but the puck fluttered over a crowd in front of the Minnesota net and landed across the goal line. Parenteau scored again in the third period for his second two-goal game of the season.

The Wild answered in the second period, taking a 2-1 lead when Setoguchi slid the rebound of a Matt Cullen shot into the net. Brodin blasted a power-play shot past Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov to double Minnesota's advantage.

"We hung Varly out to dry," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "You just can't keep doing that to your goaltender and expect to win games. When you give up chances like that, you're not going to have success long-term that way."

Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog answered 23 seconds after Brodin's goal, pulling the Avalanche back within 3-2. However, the Wild re-established a two-goal edge on a highlight-reel passing play late in the second. Ryan Suter fed Zach Parise, then Parise took the puck deep into the offensive zone and pulled Varlamov out of position before sliding a cross-ice pass to Koivu, who shot into a wide-open net.

"I knew Ryan was going to give it back to me, and I had my mind made to try and get it across to Mikko," Parise said, after watching Koivu pop the puck into the upper corner of the yawning goalmouth. "He made me a little nervous by going upstairs, but that was a big goal for us."

Fight fans got their fill as well, as the division rivals clashed without gloves a few times. The Avalanche's Cody McLeod traded blows with the Wild's Zenon Konopka in the first period, and Colorado's Cal Clutterbuck had a run-in with former Wild forward Chuck Kobasew in the third.

"Everyone knows what we have to do. We just need to find ways to win," said Landeskog, as the Avalanche (10-12-4) remain stuck in the division cellar. "We all know what's at stake here, and we all know what we need to do to get there. Right now, the desperation level has got to be higher."

Varlamov finished with 35 saves for the Avalanche, who have now lost four of their last six. Niklas Backstrom turned aside 29 shots for the Wild (14-10-2).

NOTES: The Wild traded defenseman Chay Genoway to the Washington Capitals on Thursday in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2014 draft. Genoway, who finished his college career at North Dakota as the NCAA's career leader in points by a defenseman, played one game for the Wild last season, collecting an assist. ... Milan Hejduk was activated from the injured reserve list and back in uniform for the Avalanche after missing the previous five games due to a stiff neck. Hejduk was injured in Colorado's 2-1 overtime loss in Columbus on March 3. In 66 previous games versus the Wild, Hejduk had 22 goals. ... Rookie forward Jason Zucker sat out Thursday's game after being knocked out of the Wild's 2-1 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday. Zucker was blindsided by Ducks star Corey Perry in the second period and did not return. Perry is serving a four-game suspension for the hit. Zucker played two seasons of college hockey at the University of Denver, and he hopes to be back in the lineup Saturday when the Wild play in Colorado. ... The Wild and Avalanche will continue to be division rivals next season. Under the realignment plan that became official Thursday, Colorado will be the only Mountain Time Zone dwellers in the seven-team division that will include Winnipeg, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas and Minnesota.
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