Superior goaltending has been a huge difference for the Colorado Avalanche against the Minnesota Wild this season.
Given their performance in goal their last time out, that might continue Thursday night when Colorado and visiting Minnesota meet for the final time in 2013-14.
Colorado (33-14-5), which is seven points ahead of Minnesota (29-20-6) for third place in the Central Division, won three of the first four meetings to clinch the season series for the first time since 2005-06. The Wild, who outshot Colorado in each loss, had been 29-11-5 against the Avalanche over the last seven seasons.
Minnesota recorded a .915 save percentage in going 4-0-1 in last season’s series while Colorado’s save percentage was .873. This season, the Avalanche have enjoyed the edge with a .950 save percentage and 1.50 goals-against average in their matchups compared to .890 and 2.50 for the Wild.
Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, who went 2-0-1 with a 1.58 GAA while starting three of those contests, stopped 41 shots in Monday’s 4-3 win at Dallas. The Avalanche were outshot 44-21, including 13-3 in the third period when Varlamov twice denied Tyler Seguin on a power play after Seguin had already scored two goals.
"He’s playing outstanding for us," coach Patrick Roy told the team’s official website. "I just want to be careful. I just want to go one game at a time, and I think that’s the approach Varly has, but we understand what he’s been doing for us."
Each Avalanche goal came from a different player, with Alex Tanguay providing the winner on a shot that deflected off a skate at the 4:13 mark of the third.
"It wasn’t pretty, but those things happen," Tanguay said. " … We’ll take those bounces, and (Varlamov) was great. He gave us a chance to win, and that was the difference in the game."
Zach Parise recorded his first points since returning from a fractured left foot with a goal and two assists in the Wild’s 4-2 win over league-leading Anaheim on Tuesday, marking just the second home loss in regulation for the Ducks. Parise, who played for the third time since missing 14 games, posted his second three-point performance of the season.
Jason Pominville scored his team-leading 21st goal and added an assist, giving him four points in three games after recording two over his previous six.
"I think their record at home pretty much speaks for itself. It is not an easy rink to come and play at. They play really well here," Parise said. "I think we had a really good start. We didn’t sit back. I think even when we had the lead, we kept going at them. We didn’t get passive. We put them on their heels, as opposed to us being on our heels."
Minnesota, which is 9-3-1 in January, snapped an 0-for-21, eight-game power-play drought on Mikael Granlund’s second-period goal.
The Wild are 13-2-3 in their last 18 visits to Colorado.
Gabriel Landeskog, who had two assists against Dallas, has five goals and four assists in his last seven matchups with Minnesota, including a goal in each victory this season.