ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Kevin Fiala notched his first career hat trick, Kirill Kaprizov had two of Minnesota’s three power-play goals, and the sharp-shooting Wild beat Colorado 8-3 to hand the Avalanche their first regulation loss in 16 games.
Luke Johnson, Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek also scored, as the Wild caught NHL wins leader Philipp Grubauer on a rare off night in the net. He was pulled midway through the third period for Jonas Johansson, who gave up the eighth goal — to Fiala — that matched the all-time Wild record.
In the last of their eight regular season matchups with the West Division leader, the Wild made quite the impression in case they meet the Avalanche in the playoffs. There were 18 penalties called in this tightly officiated contest, including one game misconduct for each side, and scrums broke out early and late.
Nathan MacKinnon got the Avalanche on the board just 26 seconds in the second period, after the Wild built a 3-0 lead. Andre Burakovsky and Mikko Rantanen each scored to cut the deficit to 4-3, but the Wild were ready for the surge. They finished the game with just 19 shots on goal.
Both of Kaprizov’s goals and two of Fiala’s were on a power play, as the Wild went 4 for 5 against an Avs penalty kill that entered the evening ranked second in the league. Six of Minnesota’s 18 goals with the man advantage have come in these last two games against Colorado. The Wild began the game with the second-worst power play in the NHL.
Cam Talbot made 29 saves, Jared Spurgeon had three power-play assists and Victor Rask helped on two for the Wild, who became the first team to beat the Avalanche before overtime since Arizona on March 8. Colorado, which has the league’s best points percentage and trails Toronto by one point in the overall standings, was 13-0-2 on that 15-game run.
The third-place Wild have not advanced in the Stanley Cup playoffs since beating St. Louis in the first round six years ago, and if they want to stick around this spring they’ll probably have to be more competitive with Colorado. This sure was a step in the right direction.
The Avalanche had won five of the first seven meetings by a combined 28-17 margin, including the 5-4 decision here on Monday that stopped Minnesota’s franchise-record home winning streak at 11 straight games. The Wild admitted 3,000 customers to that contest, the first time the gates were formally open this season. The fans had more than enough to cheer this time, tossing caps on the ice after Fiala’s third goal and giving the home team an approving roar as they skated off.
Avalanche: Visit Anaheim on Friday and Sunday. They’re 4-1-1 against the last-place Ducks this year.
Wild: Play at St. Louis on Friday and Saturday. They face the Blues in seven of their next 14 games.
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