DENVER (TICKER) —It’s not so much the No. 1 line on the Colorado Avalanche as it is one player.
Forsberg assisted on goals by Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay and defenseman Adam Foote as Colorado built a three-goal lead. Arguably the best two-way player in the world, Forsberg has 41 points in his last 24 games and 17 in the past eight.
“That No. 21 is a pretty good player,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of Forsberg. “He knows what to do.”
The line of Forsberg, Hejduk and Tanguay combined for two goals and six assists. One of the three has scored or assisted on each of the team’s last seven goals.
“I don’t know, we’re not going to sit back and say we’re playing great,” Forsberg said. “You’re no better than your last game. We have to make sure we’re getting better the next game.”
Forsberg also helped keep the puck deep in Minnesota’s zone for much of the final 90 seconds as the Avalanche rebounded from Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Vancouver that snapped their 10-game unbeaten streak (8-0-2).
“We didn’t play a bad game in Vancouver,” Forsberg said. “They scored to tie up the game with about three minutes left in the third and then won in overtime.”
The Avalanche nearly needed overtime in this one but watched Wild star Marian Gaborik hit the goalpost with about five minutes remaining before snapping a fifth-place tie with Minnesota in the Western Conference.
“We all mentioned that we had to win this game tonight,” said Colorado’s Patrick Roy, who made 34 saves. “It was a big game and now we’re two points ahead of these guys. It was a good win for us.”
The Wild made things interesting when Jim Dowd and Pascal Dupuis scored in the opening 3:39 of the third period, but they dropped their second game in as many nights. Minnesota was playing for the fifth time in seven days.
“We didn’t have a lot of life last night,” Lemaire said of a 3-2 loss to Phoenix. “I thought especially coming back in the third period, we were just skating and moving the puck and doing good things on the ice.”
The Wild weren’t very good early, but they weren’t lucky, either.
Hejduk opened the scoring on the power play with 2:03 left in the first period when his shot from the left faceoff circle ricocheted off the shin of Minnesota defenseman Willie Mitchell and got past goaltender Manny Fernandez.
The Wild couldn’t get a break when they needed it as Gaborik hit the post on a rush down the left wing with 5:05 left.
“They got a break in the first period. You trade one of those for one of theirs and we got a game,” Lemaire said. “There’s nights like that, where good teams find a way to put the good luck on their side.”
Tanguay made it 2-0 at 2:33 of the second. Forsberg made a brilliant pass while falling behind the net and Tanguay knocked his own rebound past Fernandez.
“The key to this game and our line is speed,” Tanguay said. “And once we’re using that speed, we’re going to create some chances. And hopefully the pucks keeping going into the nets.”
Forsberg also picked up an assist on Foote’s goal, a low slap shot from just inside the blue line that made it 3-0 with 5:56 left in the second.
Dowd scored 75 seconds into the third period when he tipped defenseman Brad Bombardir’s slap shot past Roy. Dupuis put a slapper from the top of the left circle through traffic and past Roy 2:24 later to make it 3-2.
Minnesota couldn’t manage the equalizer, but Lemaire still was happy with the third period.
“I told them we have to at least win the third period. If we do, it’s a good sign,” he said. “We can carry that into the next game.”
With valuable seconds ticking off the clock, Forsberg controlled the puck behind the goal line for nearly a half-minute, warding off Dowd in the process. The Wild managed a shot with 10 seconds left, but Roy made a glove save.
“It’s good to see we can play a close game against them,” Lemaire said, “especially when you look at all the talent that there is on that team.”