ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Ryan O’Reilly made sure the Colorado Avalanche kept up their strong play.
O’Reilly scored twice, including the game-winner with 7:16 to play, and the Avalanche beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 Saturday night.
Gabriel Landeskog and Maxime Talbot also scored for Colorado, winners in five of seven. O’Reilly had his first two-goal game of the season.
“It’s a big win for us. This is not an easy barn to play in. They play a consistent game and do a great job. They’re very detailed and they make you play tough,” O’Reilly said.
Colorado finished a season-high seven-game homestand Friday with a 4-1-2 record to strengthen its hold on third place in the Central Division behind St. Louis and Chicago.
“Tonight meant a lot of confidence for us and two points are big when we’re going to an even tougher barn in Chicago (on Tuesday),” O’Reilly added.
Charlie Coyle had his first career two-goal game for Minnesota, which lost for the first time in five games, and is eight points behind the Avalanche.
“It’s not like we played terrible that game,” Coyle said. “We can learn from stuff, carry it over to tomorrow night and go from there.”
Minnesota visits Nashville on Sunday.
Tied 2-2, and after Ryan Suter‘s uncharacteristic turnover in the Wild end, O’Reilly sent a pass to Matt Duchenein the right corner. Duchene sent the puck back to O’Reilly who lifted a backhand over the left shoulder of Niklas Backstrom from below the right circle. O’Reilly was back in the lineup after missing two games with a bruised shoulder.
“Everything was possible in the third,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. “It was just a matter of sticking to what we were doing and playing hard. Both teams didn’t want to lose that game. Both teams wanted to be patient, nobody wanted to make the mistake that could be costly for your team, and I thought we took advantage of it.”
Talbot added an empty-netter with 1:10 to play
Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, 8-0-5 in his last 14 games (13 starts), made 25 saves in the win.
“He’s probably been our rock all year and he’s been a treat to play in front of. We’ve got a lot of confidence when he’s in the net. When we blew that two-goal lead, he hung in there and calmed us down,” defenseman Erik Johnson said.
Landeskog gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead midway through the second with a display of precision passing.
The Colorado captain gathered a loose puck in the Avalanche end and carried into the Minnesota zone. Just across the blue line, he sent a pass to his left for Talbot who quickly passed to Paul Stastny near the right circle. His saucer pass found Landeskog in front just in time for him to cut across the crease and tuck the puck past a downed Niklas Backstrom.
O’Reilly made it 2-0 at 13:25 when he took a pass from John Mitchell low in the right circle and fired a quick shot that Backstrom got a piece of before the puck trickled between his pads and across the line.
First, he and Dany Heatley executed a textbook give-and-go with Coyle getting behind a Colorado defenseman and sliding the puck through the pads of Varlamov as he faked a deke.
Forty seconds later, Heatley took a pass from Nate Prosser below the goal line and centered for Coyle, whose shot from low in the right circle beat Varlamov on the stick side. His span between goals set a franchise record for fastest two goals by a Wild player at home.
“Certainly, that was a great shift,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We need guys to step up. It’s got to be different guys every night. Despite that we have guys out, we have guys that are capable.”
Each goalie was rarely tested in the first period – the teams combined for just five shots in the opening 15 minutes – until Varlamov made a pair of quality saves to stop Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke from in front as the Wild had a flurry late in the frame.
NOTES: Stastny left the game with a leg injury. Roy said he is day-to-day…. Heatley’s multi-point game was his first since Nov. 20. … Colorado D Karl Stollery made his NHL debut. He was recalled from AHL Lake Erie Friday to replace D Nate Guenin, who was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. … The Wild wore camouflage jerseys during warmup that will be auctioned off to benefit the team’s foundation and Defending The Blue Line, which helps military families with hockey costs.
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