Wild tops Avalanche in overtime
MINNEAPOLIS - The Wild was barely recognizable, and it wasn't just because players were debuting North Stars-themed jerseys.
After its manpower was sapped in recent days due to suspension, injury and the NHL's COVID protocols, the team rolled out a brand-new lineup that included three players from the taxi squad - a Sunday scramble that could have been a recipe for disaster against a suave Colorado squad.
But the changes didn't stop there.
In a surprise performance, the team was much more competitive than the experienced version that was crushed the night before and rallied for a 4-3 overtime win at Xcel Energy Center to split the first half of a four-game series with the Avalanche before the action moves to Colorado.
Round 3 is Tuesday.
Defenseman Jonas Brodin converted on a one-timer just 18 seconds into the extra session, spoiling North Branch's Hunter Miska 29-save showing in his second career start. Winger Jordan Greenway set up the shot to cap off a two-point night.
Not only was the score closer than the 5-1 dusting by the Avalanche on Saturday, but the feel of the game wasn't as lopsided – an unexpected development considering the Wild (6-4) could have easily limped through the evening.
Defenseman Matt Dumba and winger Marcus Johansson left Saturday's game with injury and remained sidelined Sunday; Dumba was moved to injured reserve with a lower-body issue after he fell awkwardly on his right leg. And on Sunday morning, the Wild learned winger Marcus Foligno was entering the NHL's COVID protocols and would be unavailable.
Already, the team was down winger Kevin Fiala, who is serving a three-game suspension for boarding and isn't eligible to return until Thursday — the finale between these two West Division rivals.
To replace those four regulars, the Wild ushered forwards Gerald Mayhew, Kyle Rau and Luke Johnson onto the roster from the taxi squad and gave Brad Hunt a spot on the blue line. The Wild also got starting goalie Cam Talbot back, Talbot's first appearance since he went down with a lower-body injury on Jan. 22.
Talbot finished with 22 saves - including one highlight-reel grab against Nathan MacKinnon, who exited the game early with a lower-body injury.
And in a spunky effort that seemed to channel the inspiration behind the team's retro green and gold jerseys, the Wild hung around with the Avalanche for most of the game.
After Joonas Donskoi split the Wild defense and wristed the puck by Talbot 4:33 into the first period on Colorado's first shot on goal, the Wild retaliated before the period ended.
Greenway stuffed in a Joel Eriksson Ek rebound at 16:19 to and extend his career-best point streak to four games. He also has a team-high 10 points.
The Wild would lead 2-1 early in the second after center Victor Rask buried a Jared Spurgeon feed, the 200th assist of Spurgeon's career. He became just the second defenseman in team history to reach the plateau.
But just 2:03 later, the Avalanche tied it on a slick shot by Cale Makar from the middle and at 7:09 of the third, Brandon Saad scored for a second consecutive game – clanking a shot off the post and crossbar before the puck fell into the net.
Again, though, the Wild responded, with Rask's shot through traffic at 12:34 ringing up as his first multi-goal game with the Wild to set up extra time.
The Wild was also much more disciplined in the rematch.
After putting Colorado on the power play seven times Saturday, the Avalanche had four chances Sunday and the Wild killed off every one of them. Its power play was also dormant - extending its woeful slump to 2-for-39 after blanking on three opportunities.