Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon played the final 2 minutes, 55 seconds, all of which was head-to-head against the Colorado Avalanche’s top line anchored by superstar Nathan MacKinnon.
Both defensemen got in front of shots, as did captain Mikko Koivu, and goalie Alex Stalock scrambled around the crease to keep the puck out.
“It was guns versus guns,” Stalock said. “That’s what people pay to watch. It was quite the show.”
And the Wild maximized its admission.
Despite a frenzied finish, the Wild persevered to hold off Colorado 3-2 Thursday in front of 17,574 at Xcel Energy Center. The significance of doing so was widespread.
Not only did the Wild improve to 3-0-1 in its past four, but it extended its point streak on home ice to seven games (5-0-2).
This was also the team’s first triumph this season against the Central Division after starting 0-6-1.
And perhaps most important, the Wild (9-11-2) sealed back-to-back victories for just the second time — a mini-roll that could lead to the longer run the team has been missing.
“In order to kind of get back in the standings and get things going, we got to string together these games,” winger Jordan Greenway said. “We know that. So, there’s no game that we can take our foot off the gas. I think if we come out and play like that and play the way that we can, we can beat anyone.”
Before the Wild went into survival mode, winger Jason Zucker nixed a 2-2 tie at 9:58 — this after the Avalanche scored twice late in the second to erase a two-goal deficit.
Both Avalanche goals came from rookie standout Cale Makar.
At 14:19, Makar’s blistering shot from the slot on the power play sailed top shelf. Then with 1:11 remaining in the period, Makar toe-dragged around a sprawled Joel Eriksson Ek and wired the puck past Stalock.
“It was a good thing, quite frankly, that the period ended when it did so you could regather your thoughts,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “When it’s tied going to the third period, it’s like starting a new [game], all you have to do is win one.”
And that’s what the Wild did.
Goalie Philipp Grubauer stopped Eric Staal, but the puck remained loose and Zucker buried it behind an unsuspecting Grubauer for his seventh goal.
“The maturity is starting to show,” Suter said. “We’re starting to play the right way at the start of games and playing — if they score — to get the momentum back. It’s a good sign for us.”
Just 1:48 into the second, the Wild opened the scoring on the power play when Koivu set up winger Mats Zuccarello for a redirect in front of the net. The helper was Koivu’s fourth in his past four games. Suter also earned an assist, this after becoming the first Wild defenseman to record 100 career power-play assists Tuesday.
The Wild finished 1-for-4 with the man advantage; Colorado went 1-for-2.
Only 53 seconds later, the Wild doubled its lead when Greenway skated past Grubauer and shot into a yawning net.
“I just had to wait the goalie out and put it in,” Greenway said.
Since Nov. 1, the Wild has scored 15 goals in the middle period — first in the NHL. But it was the team’s play in the third that was clutch, finalizing two wins in a row since Oct. 20 and 22 against Montreal and Edmonton.
“Everyone’s chipping in [and] doing the right thing,” Suter said. “We’re getting solid goaltending. It’s contagious.”