Avs' Varlamov celebrates contract extension by beating Wild
Semyon Varlamov had 35 saves, John Mitchell had a goal and an assist and the Colorado Avalanche edged the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night.
Matt Duchene had two assists for Colorado, which survived a flurry at the end to get the victory. Ryan O'Reilly, Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon and Maxime Talbot also scored.
It was quite a day for the 25-year-old Varlamov, who also finalized a five-year contract extension with Colorado that runs through the 2018-19 season.
The Avalanche won the season series with the Wild 4-0-1 and moved nine points ahead of them in the Central Division. Colorado has a firm grasp on third place and the final automatic playoff seed in the division.
Zach Parise had two goals and an assist and Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville also scored for Minnesota, which went 9-4-1 in January to get into the thick of the postseason race.
The Avalanche used a big second period to help cool off the Wild.
Mitchell broke a 1-1 tie with his sixth goal of the season at 1:43. Stastny scored his 16th of the season on a rebound midway through the period, and Talbot used the stick of Wild center Kyle Brodziak to make it 4-1 at 15:26. Brodziak had gathered a rebound in front of goalie Darcy Kuemper when Talbot came in from behind and hit the center's stick to put the puck in the net.
A minute later, Niklas Backstrom replaced Kuemper, who had 19 saves.
Backstrom had nine stops the rest of the way, giving the Wild a chance to get back into it. Parise's goal at 7:47 made it 4-2. He then assisted on Granlund's goal at 12:51 that made it a one-score game.
MacKinnon appeared to seal the win with his 19th of the season at 17:35 but Pominville scored 11 seconds later.
Backstrom went off for an extra skater with 1:07 left but the Wild couldn't get the equalizer.
Colorado took a 1-0 lead on O'Reilly's 20th of the season at 4:41 of the first and Parise tied in on the power play 1:35 later.
The Avalanche had three power-play chances to break the tie in the first but couldn't capitalize. Brodziak nearly scored a short-handed goal but Varlamov made a save on the odd-man rush.
NOTES: Avalanche RW P.A. Parenteau was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Parenteau played in three games after missing 10 with a sprained left knee. ... Wild D Jared Spurgeon skated with the team Thursday. He has been on injured reserve since Jan. 4 with a foot injury.