By Adam Czech
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Colorado overcame the loss of one of its most physical players after he was ejected late in the first period on Friday.
Instead, the Avalanche dug in and held on for a road win against their old rivals in a new division.
Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and two assists, Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 27 saves to set a franchise record with his sixth straight win to start a season, and the Colorado beat the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.
Jan Hejda and Nathan MacKinnon also scored for the Avs, who won for the fourth time in their past five games.
“When you play well against the division, those are the points that are really going to matter in the end,” Landeskog said.
“Minnesota’s been playing well lately, so for us to come in here and have the type of road game we did today, from start to finish, it builds our confidence for sure.”
Dany Heatley scored his fourth goal in six games for Minnesota and Zach Parise returned ahead of schedule from a foot injury.
Parise — Minnesota’s leading scorer — was supposed to be out 2 to 3 weeks after blocking a shot with his left foot on Monday, but skated during warmups and felt good enough to play.
Despite Parise’s comeback, the Wild lost their third straight.
After the game, Parise said his foot felt fine, but he wasn’t happy with his team’s play.
“Played a soft hockey game. We turn the puck over,” he said. “And once we started doing it right in the third period, we started getting some chances.
“But we turn it over, we turn away from everybody, we make it pretty easy for them, and that slows us down. All of a sudden, we can’t get any speed generated because we keep backchecking.”
Colorado scored on its first shot of the game when Hejda’s shot from just inside the blue line sailed through traffic and past goalie Josh Harding at 3:45.
Nobody else scored in the first, but Avs winger Cody McLeod was ejected after riding Jonas Brodin into the boards from behind and drawing a game misconduct.
The Wild managed only one shot on the ensuing five-minute power play and fell behind 2-0 when MacKinnon tipped Landeskog’s shot past Harding at 4:34 of the second.
“We didn’t give them much, and it was great to kill that one because obviously it could’ve gone in their favor at some moment if they would score,” Avs coach Patrick Roy said.
Clinging to a one-goal lead, Colorado was outshot 16-5 in the final period, but held on thanks to a couple of key saves from Giguere. The goalie known as “Jiggy” turned away a prime scoring attempt from Keith Ballard from right in front of the net with 3 minutes left in the game.
“We were expecting a push from them, and I thought they did a good job putting pucks to the net, but overall we didn’t make too many big mistakes that would cost us a goal or the game,” Giguere said. “Overall we should be pretty happy with a big road game.”
Landeskog scored into an empty net with 20 seconds to play.
Minnesota and Colorado have developed a rivalry after meeting twice in the first round of the playoffs and playing each other for 12 seasons in the now-defunct Northwest Division. Friday’s game was the first of five meetings this season between the two teams in the new Central Division.
These two teams meet again on Saturday night in Colorado. Wild coach Mike Yeo said if his team wants a different result, it needs to get back to what it was doing earlier in the season.
“It seems to take us a 2-0 deficit right now to find the urgency to be effective in the game,” he said. “We seem to think that we’re pretty good and we don’t need to do some of the things that brought us success, some of the things that we need to do to be successful. Hopefully we’re taking a lesson, we’re taking notes.”