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Wild give up lead but win in shootout

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Minnesota Wild have made late rallies a habit against the Colorado Avalanche. On Saturday night, the Wild figured out how to finish the job.

Goaltender Josh Harding made 26 saves in regulation and overtime and three in a shootout as the Wild edged the Avalanche 2-1.

Right winger Nino Niederreiter scored in regulation, and center Mikko Koivu and left winger Zach Parise had goals in the shootout for the Wild, who beat Colorado for the first time in three tries this season.

It was the second time in two weeks the Wild scored a late goal to tie up the Avalanche. They had two goals in the final four minutes on Nov. 30 but lost in a shootout.

This time, they flipped the script.

"It was similar to the last time we were here. Got one late to tie it up and fortunately this time we were able to win it," Parise said. "We played three really tough road games, and to end on a good note is good."

Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves and center Maxime Talbot scored in regulation for the Avalanche, who suffered their first loss this season after regulation.

"You're not going to win every overtime, every shootout," Colorado center Matt Duchene said. "If Harding isn't as good as he is, we score a few more."

The Avalanche lost three of four after a hot start this season.

Duchene scored Colorado's only shootout goal before Harding made saves on right winger P.A. Parenteau and center Ryan O'Reilly to give the Wild the win.

"I felt good," Harding said. "With the way our D-men and forwards play defensively, if I can be solid and give our team a chance to win, they usually come through with it."

Parise tied it on Minnesota's first chance and Koivu followed with what proved to be the winner for the Wild, who have struggled for goals lately.

Both regulation goals were scored on deflections during a grinding, defensive game.

"It was two fluky goals," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Ours was when we missed the net, hit a skate and went in and they had the same thing, a tip in front of the net. They were not pretty goals, but at the same time part of the game."

The Wild don't care how they score. Their offense has struggled lately, scoring five goals in previous four games. Minnesota had just three wins in its last 10 games before rallying Saturday to tie Colorado for third in the Central Division.

Minnesota didn't alleviate its offensive problems, but it got the win anyway. The Wild had just 16 shots on goal in the second period and couldn't take advantage of a long shift by the Avalanche late in the period. Colorado players were gassed trying to clear the puck for a change, but the Wild didn't cash in.

"Sometimes you hit those streaks where you don't get that offense as much," Koivu said. "A lot of times that happens on the road. Obviously, we played some good teams. Tonight, one goal and the shootout got us the win. We just have to stick with it."

The Avalanche opened the scoring midway through the second period when defenseman Corey Sarich's shot from the point ricocheted of Talbot's skate and past Harding with 9:12 left in the period.

The Wild pressed for the equalizer in the third, but it appeared it wouldn't be enough. They failed to convert on their only power play, which came midway through the period.

Minnesota finally got the equalizer when defenseman Ryan Suter's shot from the blue line was tipped in by Niederreiter with 3:53 left in regulation.

"You give up a point shot, very rarely does it go in, especially a wrister," Duchene said. "Varly stops that 99 times out of 100 if it's no screen. They obviously had a good screen."

NOTES: Avalanche D Jan Hejda (sprained right knee) returned to the lineup after missing four games. Hejda was injured in Colorado's loss to Edmonton on Dec. 5. ... Minnesota C Mikko Koivu has 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in the last 19 games. LW Zach Parise leads the team with 26 points and has eight points (4-4) in his last 11 games. ... There was a moment of silence for the families, students and faculty who were impacted by the shooting at Arapahoe High School in suburban Denver on Friday. ... The NHL trophies were on display before and during the game at the Pepsi Center. Ticketholders could get in a few hours before the puck drop to see them all, including the Stanley Cup.
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