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Wild win opener over Avalanche

By Chad GraffSt. Paul Pioneer Press ST. PAUL -- Nino Niederreiter was sitting on his rear end when the red light behind Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov lit up for a fourth time. Niederreiter had won a race to a loose puck, and he flipped a puck past V...

Minnesota Wild
USA TODAY Sports Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper, left, attempts to clear the crease of Colorado forward Jarome Iginla, center, and defenseman Jared Spurgeon during the first period Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

By Chad Graff
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL - Nino Niederreiter was sitting on his rear end when the red light behind Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov lit up for a fourth time.
Niederreiter had won a race to a loose puck, and he flipped a puck past Varlamov at the doorstep.
Niederreiter and his linemates celebrated in Varlamov’s crease with their hands raised high as another Wild goal was replayed on the new jumbotron at the Xcel Energy Center. The Avalanche didn’t do anything about the Wild’s party in front of the Colorado net. They couldn’t.
On opening night in St. Paul, the Wild put a thrashing on new rival Colorado in a 5-0 beatdown to start the season. They outworked the Avalanche. They were more skilled than the Avalanche. They were more physical than the Avalanche. The Wild’s 48 shots on goal set a franchise record.
After many comparisons between the teams after their thrilling opening-round playoff series last spring, there were no comparisons Thursday night. The Wild were much better, and at some point, their goals started to blend together.
Minnesota’s first line of Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville skated circles around the Avalanche defense. They outworked Colorado and seemed to have a great scoring chance every time they were on the ice.
Minnesota scored four times in the second period.
Jared Spurgeon finished off a one-timer after one of the top line’s best shifts of the night. Zach Parise outworked everyone to score five seconds after a neutral-zone faceoff. Varlamov stopped Parise’s first shot. And his second. Parise scored on his third shot.
That put the Wild up 3-0 in a game that felt over midway through the second period.
Then came Niederreiter’s goal at the doorstep, which flaunted the Wild’s willpower after Minnesota won several battles for the puck.
Ryan Suter teed one up from the point after Parise fed him on a one-timer, and after all that the Wild led 5-0, still with three minutes to play in the second period.
The Wild recorded 40 shots 45 minutes into the game and broke the franchise record for shots with more than six minutes to play.
By the time the game was halfway over, fans at the Xwere chanting “sieve” at Varlamov, the all-star goalie. He was removed at the start of the third period.
The plethora of goals overshadowed the job the Wild’s line of Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula and Niederreiter did against Colorado’s best players. They bottled up Nathan MacKinnon, the teenage phenom who made the Wild look silly in the playoffs last spring.
MacKinnon didn’t record a shot in the season opener. Parise recorded nine.
In net, Darcy Kuemper didn’t have to be great for the Wild. But with the task of staying sharp without much action, he turned aside every shot he saw.
By the end, the Wild were just toying with the Avalanche, who looked like Minnesota’s younger brother who kept getting up, only to get knocked down again.
It was a night of festivities, of course, as the season opener featured the multimillion dollar renovations at the Xcel Energy Center. The night was punctuated by the barrage of goals that helped the Wild improve to 12-0-2 all time in their season openers at home.
The Wild head to Denver for a rematch with the Avalanche on Saturday night when, surely, the Avs will play a better game. It would be tough for them to play worse.
The Avalanche went dumbfounding lengths of time without seeing their offensive zone and even longer stretches without a shot on goal.
After an offseason filled with plenty of optimism, the Wild provided much more in their first game of the season, one of their most dominating outings in years.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service

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