Wild 4, Avalanche 2By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Sun, Jan 20, 2013 12:00 AM EST
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Dany Heatley scored a pair of power play goals -- both of them set up by Zach Parise -- as the Minnesota's new-look top line did its job in the season opener, powering the Wild to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. John Mitchell and Cody McLeod scored for the Avalanche, who failed to capitalize on an opening 20 minutes in which they out-shot Minnesota, 12-5, but only grabbed a one-goal lead. Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov denied Wild fans some great drama in the opening minute, knocking down a Parise tip after a shot from the blue line by defenseman Jared Spurgeon. On the next shift the Avalanche quieted the home crowd in earnest, as Mitchell poked Colorado's first shot on goal of the season under Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom for an early 1-0 lead. The Wild, after a lethargic first period, took advantage of Colorado running into penalty trouble in the middle stanza, scoring three times. Parise, who signed a $98 million free agent contract in July, fed a pass to Heatley on the Wild's first power play, which led to a 1-1 tie. Another highly anticipated Minnesota newcomer gave the Wild their first lead of the season less than a minute later, as Finnish rookie Mikael Granlund tipped a Spurgeon shot past Varlamov. Heatley scored on a 5-on-3 power play later in the second. McLeod had six goals in 75 games for the Avalanche last season and is known more for his enforcer work than for offense. But it was his backhand shot that slipped past Backstrom early in the third period to get Colorado back within a goal at 3-2. But Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who has battled concussion symptoms for two years and was just reinstated from injured reserve this week, scored with 95 seconds left for Minnesota. Backstrom finished with 25 saves for Wild, who play Dallas at home on Sunday. The Avalanche, who will have their home opener Tuesday versus the Blue Jackets, got 31 saves from Varlamov. NOTES: Avalanche forward Chuck Kobasew, who had missed practice during the week due to the flu, was scratched from the lineup on Saturday. ... The entire Wild roster was announced prior to the game, including rookie defenseman Mathew Dumba, Minnesota's first-round pick (seventh overall) in last summer's entry draft. The 18-year-old did not dress in the game, but was in uniform for the intros. ... Minnesota newcomer Zenon Konopka and Colorado's Cody McLeod wasted little time reminding fans of their roles for their respective teams, as they dropped the gloves less than three minutes into the first period. ... Dumba is expected to be sent back to the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL soon, but stuck with the Wild through the abbreviated training camp when veteran defenseman Tom Gilbert tweaked a groin muscle during a scrimmage on Wednesday. Gilbert was held out of practice for a day, but played on Saturday.
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