ST. PAUL, Minn. – After several humble losses to the West Division leader, the Minnesota Wild sent quite a message to the Colorado Avalanche in their last of eight regular season games.
Eight was more than enough for the Wild to slow the rising Avalanche.
Kevin Fiala scored his first hat-trick of his career, Kirill Kaprizov had two of Minnesota's three power play goals, and the sharp-shooting Wild beat Colorado 8-3 on Wednesday to hand the Avalanche their first regulation loss in 16 games.
The explanation? "We can play against you," said Fiala, "if we meet them in the playoffs."
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– Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) April 8, 2021
Luke Johnson, Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek also scored as Wild Caught NHL wins leader Philipp Grubauer on a rare night in the net. He was withdrawn halfway through the third period for Jonas Johansson, who gave up the eighth goal – to Fiala – which equaled the all-time Wild record. They finished with just 19 shots on target, scoring on a staggering 42% of their goal attempts.
& # 39; They were the hungrier team. They reappeared in the first period at a pace and intensity we had not matched, & # 39; & # 39; said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar.
Nathan MacKinnon got the Avalanche on the board just 26 seconds in the second half, after the Wild had built up a 3-0 lead. Andre Burakovsky and Mikko Rantanen both scored to narrow the deficit to 4-3, but Kaprizov reacted with a snipe through traffic less than four minutes later. The Russian right wing became the first Wild rookie to score two power play goals in a match.
"He's a great player. He's been great for us all season and I feel like all the lines are rolling," said Fiala.
Two of Fiala's goals were also in a power play, as the Wild went 4 for 5 against an Avs penalty kill that went into the night in second place in the league. Six of Minnesota's 18 goals for the man advantage have fallen in these last two games against Colorado. The Wild started the game with the second worst power play in the NHL.
"Haven't we been waiting for that?" coach Dean Evason said.
The Avalanche itself did much of the damage. MacKinnon had the penalties ahead of both Kaprizov's power play goals. Hartman scored on an interception in the Colorado zone and Fiala also had a goal after a turnover.
"You don't want to blow it out of proportion, but you're not going to just let it go," said Avs captain Gabe Landeskog. & # 39; I think every man in that locker room hates losing. Some of us hate losing more than winning. That's just the way it is. It doesn't matter how many games you win in a row or where you rank on the leaderboard, it's still a loss. But good teams learn from that. "
18 penalties were imposed in this tight match, including one in-game misconduct for each side, and scrums broke out early and late.
Cam Talbot made 29 saves, Jared Spurgeon had three power-play assists, and Victor Rask helped out on two for the Wild, who became the first team to beat the Avalanche for extra time since Arizona on March 8. Colorado, which has the best points percentage in the league. and one point behind Toronto in the overall standings, was 13-0-2 during that 15-game run.
The Avalanche had won five of the first seven meetings by a combined margin of 28-17, including the 5-4 decision here on Monday that stopped Minnesota & # 39; s franchise-record home winning streak at 11 consecutive games. The Wild admitted 3,000 customers to that competition, the first time the gates were officially open this season. The fans had more than enough to cheer this time around by throwing caps on the ice after Fiala's third goal and giving the home team a roar of approval while skating away.
"That was cool, to have the fans here, the energy," said Fiala. “We like to play for the fans, you know? Obviously it was a lot of fun to see the hats on the ice. "
LIGHTING UP PARIS
Zach Parise (COVID-19 protocols) and Mats Zuccarello (lower body injury) both returned to the Wild lineup. Parise was on the fourth line with Johnson, who got his first career goal.
Avalanche: Visit Anaheim on Fridays and Sundays. They are 4-1-1 against last place Ducks this year.
Wild: Play on Fridays and Saturdays in St. Louis. They play against the Blues in seven of their next 14 games.