Avalanche fend off Wild
DENVER — Rookie Nathan MacKinnon and John Mitchell each recorded a goal and an assist as host Colorado held on for its seventh victory in nine games, beating the Minnesota Wild 5-4 at the Pepsi Center.
Paul Stastny recorded his second goal in two contests, Ryan O’Reilly registered his team-leading 20th and Maxime Talbot also scored for the Avalanche, who led 4-1 entering the third period. Semyon Varlamov, who signed a five-year extension worth a reported $29.5 million Thursday, allowed three goals in the third period while making 25 of his 31 stops in the final two frames en route to his career-best 27th victory.
Zach Parise scored twice and matched a career high with four points, Jason Pominville recorded his team-best 22nd and Mikael Granlund had a goal and two assists for the Wild.
Rookie Darcy Kuemper allowed four goals on 23 shots while making his ninth straight start, and was replaced by Niklas Backstrom, who stopped eight of the nine shots he faced.
Moments after Colorado’s Jamie McGinn placed a monster hit on Nate Prosser, Mitchell crossed the blue line and whistled a low shot past Kuemper’s stick at 1:43 of the second period to break a 1-1 tie. Stastny’s third goal in four games occurred when he knocked in the rebound of Eric Johnson’s shot at 9:17 of the middle stanza.
After Talbot made it 4-1 with 4:34 left in the second, Parise recorded a short-handed goal at 7:47 of the third and set up Granlund’s score 5:04 later for his seventh point in the past two games. MacKinnon’s breakaway goal — his 19th — came with 2:25 left before Pominville tallied 11 seconds later, but the Wild could not get the equalizer.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Colorado C Matt Duchene had two assists and has 25 points in his last 24 games, including one goal and 10 points in 14 January contests. ... The Avalanche, who won the season series 4-0-1, increased their lead over the Wild to nine points for the third and final playoff spot in the Central Division, but Minnesota has a four-point lead over Phoenix for a wild-card berth. ... Colorado LW Cody McLeod fought Minnesota D Clayton Stoner in the first period, and the five penalty minutes tied him with Adam Foote for the most in Avalanche history with 948.