With overtime looming just more three minutes away, Koivu made an athletic move to get to the net and score the game winner to help the Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Sunday night.
“It happened so fast,” Koivu said. “It’s always tough for the goalie when it comes so quick, and that’s what happened there. I don’t know if he even knew that I got the puck.”
With both teams stagnant in the final period, Koivu grabbed the puck out of the corner, started like he was going to carry it behind the net and then made a lightning quick move to the short side and simply bulled his way out in front.
He stuffed the puck past a surprised Peter Budaj with 3:04 to play, lifting the Wild to their seventh win in the first eight games. Minnesota is off to its best start (7-0-1) in franchise history and is the only team in the NHL that has yet to lose a game in regulation.
“It’s good for the team and it’s good for our self confidence for the rest of the year,” Koivu said. “But still, it’s just eight games.”
Koivu, the younger brother of Montreal star Saku, has made steady progress since he was chosen by the Wild with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft.
His first two seasons with the Wild were solid, but he seems to have taken another step this season.
“He’s the guy that has been playing great for us since the start,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.
The Colorado goaltender said he wasn’t surprised when Koivu got to the crease, but “I was surprised it went in. He hit a five-hole.”
Minnesota’s struggling power-play unit, which entered the night converting a minuscule 6.9 percent of its chances, scored twice in the second, but Colorado bounced right back in an action-packed period.
After Parrish and Rolston scored power-play goals just over two minutes apart to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead, Colorado responded by finishing the frame strong.
Arnason got things going with a power-play goal and then Brunette scored on a tip in on the backdoor to tie the game.
But the Avalanche sorely missed Milan Hejduk, who was out with a back injury, and couldn’t quite come up with enough in the end.
The Avs are looking to avoid another slow start, which doomed them last year. Colorado began last season 18-18-2, the kind of mediocrity that won’t get it done in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
Even a 15-2-2 finish to the season wasn’t enough to dig the Avs out of that hole, and they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94, becoming the first team in NHL history to record at least 93 points and not qualify for the postseason.
“We’ve got to get it to overtime,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “We can’t give up late goals like that or you end up with nothing. That’s something we dealt with last year. We got better late in the year, but we can’t wait to apply that lesson.”
Wild forward Pavol Demitra had two assists, but did not play for the final 10 minutes of the third period because of an injury. Lemaire said he would be evaluated on Monday. … It was the 500th game in franchise history for the Wild, who began play in 2000. With a total record of 215-194-90 record (.521), the Wild have the seventh-best win percentage of any active franchise after its first 500 games. … It was a rough second period for Jordan Leopold, a former star defenseman at the University of Minnesota. Leopold took three penalties in the period, two of which led to Wild goals.