O’Reilly gets shootout goal and Avs beat Wild 3-2

The Colorado Avalanche didn’t need a shootout to get off to

their best start in franchise history.

When they faced one, they were once again successful.

Ryan O’Reilly scored the only goal in the shootout, Semyon

Varlamov stopped 35 shots and the Avalanche beat the Minnesota Wild

3-2 on Saturday night.

Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon had a goal apiece to help

the Avalanche sweep the home-and-home series with the Wild.

”It was a good couple games against Minny, they obviously play

a pretty tough game,” MacKinnon said. ”Down low, they’re tough to

defend. It’s always nice to get on the board a little bit, but

obviously getting two wins is huge for us.”

Colorado and the New York Rangers were the only teams to yet

have a game decided in a shootout before Saturday. Despite their

lack of experience, the Avalanche came out on top.

”(I was) nervous, same as usually,” Varlamov said. ”Nobody,

none of the goalies, nobody likes the shootouts.”

John Mitchell added two assists for Colorado, which won a rare

penalty-free game.

”I was a little bit (surprised) considering how much time was

spent in the offensive zone,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said

regarding the lack of penalty calls.

Mikko Koivu and Matt Cooke scored goals and Josh Harding stopped

23 shots for the Wild.

Minnesota has dominated the Avalanche in Colorado since the

2007-08 season. The Wild came into Saturday with a 12-2-2 record

since midway through that season, and they had won six of their

past seven at Pepsi Center.

The Avalanche looked as if they would win comfortably despite

Minnesota carrying the play when Cooke spoiled the shutout bid with

3:27 left to make it 2-1.

”I think we had five or six grade-A chances in the first period

alone and sometimes that’s frustrating,” Cooke said. ”But it’s up

to us to just try to keep each other positive and the fact that

we’re getting those scoring opportunities is a good thing. We just

need to stay on it.”

Harding came off for an extra skater in the final minute, and

Koivu beat Varlamov on a slap shot with six seconds left to send

the game into overtime.

”Nobody wants to give up a goal with 4 seconds left,” Varlamov

said. ”The third period we sat back the last 10 minutes and they

started to get more chances around the net and that is why we gave

up two goals. It is what it is. We were able to get two

points.”

Neither team could score in the extra period, sending the

Avalanche to their first shootout of the season.

Despite never having competed in an NHL shootout – or coaching

in one – coach Patrick Roy didn’t hesitate in picking his shooters.

He chose the only players to score in one in the team’s last

practice.

”It made it kind of easy,” Roy said.

Harding made saves on P.A. Parenteau and MacKinnon before

O’Reilly broke through. Jason Pominville couldn’t match the goal

and Minnesota lost for the second straight night.

”I just tried to open up my blade and try to look like I was

going to shoot it and kind of put it through,” O’Reilly said.

For Minnesota, getting a point after trailing late was some

consolation.

”That’s a huge point for us. It was great the way we played the

game,” Yeo said. ”We lost the skill competition at the end of the

game, the shootout, whatever you want to call it. Bottom line I

really believe we deserved the win in regulation.”

Coming off a tough loss to Colorado in St. Paul on Friday night,

Minnesota was looking to get even but Saturday’s game started like

Friday’s ended.

Landeskog, who sealed Friday’s 3-1 win with an empty-net goal,

gave the Avalanche the early lead when his backhand from the side

of the net deflected off Harding and into the goal 2:22 into the

game. It was his ninth goal of the season.

The Wild nearly tied it later in the first when Cooke’s backhand

slipped under Varlamov and lay on the goal line for a moment and

the goalie covered it up. It was reviewed and determined the puck

never completely crossed the line.

Minnesota had another great chance in the second period when

Torrey Mitchell got ahead of the defense, took a pass from Cooke

and had a breakaway on Varlamov. The goalie stopped the backhander

to preserve the one-goal lead.

”Some nights you get a hot goalie and we surely did that

tonight,” Koivu said.

Colorado added to the lead later in the second when Marco

Scandella turned it over in his own end. Mitchell got the puck to a

wide-open MacKinnon, and the rookie beat Harding with a wrister at

12:56 of the period.

It was his fifth goal of the season.

NOTES: It was the second time in the Colorado/Quebec franchise

history that the team played a penalty-free game. The other

happened April 9, 2000, against Detroit. … Mitchell reached 100

career points with his two assists. … Wild LW Zach Parise played

in his second straight game after missing one with a foot

contusion. … Avalanche C Paul Stastny returned after missing two

games due to back spasms.