Gaudreau supplies 2 shorthanded goals in Wild's 4-2 win over Avs

Sarah McLellan, Star Tribune on

Published in Hockey

DENVER — The Wild are starting to settle in at their new digs.

In their first (and last) chance to defend their recent move atop the Central Division against their closest competition, the Wild held off the reigning Stanley Cup champion Avalanche 4-2 on Wednesday at Ball Arena to earn a three-point lead over Colorado and Dallas with seven games to go in the regular season.

Goaltender Filip Gustavsson was sharp, turning in a 42-save performance in front of a well-balanced, yet shorthanded offense.

Despite playing down a forward due to injury (Ryan Reaves) and illness (Brandon Duhaime), the Wild had two lines and their penalty kill score while eight players picked up a point. Frederick Gaudreau's first of two shorthanded goals 9:10 into the second period was the difference, helping the Wild to their third straight win.

Not only did that extend the Wild's point streak on the road to 11 games (8-0-3), but they improved to 16-1-4 over their last 21 games to bank a league-high 36 points since Feb. 17.

That tear started after their second loss of the season to the Avalanche, but the Wild were much better in the rematch.

Just 3:24 into the first, Marcus Johansson buried a between-the-legs, no-look pass from Joel Eriksson Ek for Johansson's 12th point in 14 games with the Wild since a trade from Washington.


Colorado's Bowen Byram answered back at 10:43 on a breakaway after exiting the penalty box, but Sam Steel uncorked a backhander by Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev with 3:58 left in the first to give the Wild a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Steel, who subbed in for Duhaime after being a healthy scratch the previous four games, became the 17th different goal scorer for the Wild in the 10 games they've played without injured star Kirill Kaprizov; the Wild are 7-1-2 in that stretch.

Their power play went 0-for-3, but their penalty kill delivered, going 4-for-4: Gaudreau converted against Georgiev, who finished with 25 saves, on a breakaway for his career-high 15th goal and the team's 10th shorthanded tally.

Colorado was at its best in the third, concentrating the action in front of Gustavsson's crease, and that pressure culminated in a deflection by Lars Eller with 6:19 remaining. In all, the Avalanche sent 19 pucks on net in the third compared to four for the Wild, but time ran out before they could capitalize again and Gaudreau tacked on another shorthanded goal into an empty net with 33 seconds left.


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