Mikko Koivu and Colorado's Steve Downie battled for possession.

Elizabeth Flores, Dml - Star Tribune


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Wild's top line shows its shine in 4-2 opening-night victory

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO
  • Star Tribune
  • January 20, 2013 - 4:35 AM


Like a fine glass of ZK28 wine, the Wild's 2013 unveiling only got better with age.

Maybe the Wild was simply disoriented by the smoke and fog and flashing lights of the pregame festivities, but the first 20 minutes after the cork was popped on the new-look team smelled funky.

Outmuscled and outchanced in an ugly first period, the Wild stormed out of the tunnel in the second period and gave the raucous Xcel Energy Center crowd of 19,298 reason to feel optimistic this season.

The star-studded Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Dany Heatley first line teamed for two power-play goals, and Finnish phenom Mikael Granlund scored in his first NHL game as the Wild rallied to an eventual 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche.

"This was a long time coming," coach Mike Yeo said. "It was real nice to get a win for our fans. On top of that, I thought they were instrumental. We weren't giving them much to cheer about early, but the second we did, the place was rocking, and we fed off it."

Heatley, a power-play machine since his 2001 NHL arrival, scored two goals, including the winner, Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored once in his first game in more than a year and Parise and Koivu each had two assists.

Ryan Suter debuted with more than 27 minutes of ice time, and Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves as the Wild won its 11th consecutive home opener.

"It was awesome," Parise, who had eight shots, said of his first of many games at the X. "It was electric right at the beginning of the game."

Fourth-line center Zenon Konopka, the proud winemaker of ZK28, also introduced himself to the fans by dropping the gloves 2 1/2 minutes into the game. He later leaked blood from that 12-time broken nose of his to draw a four-minute power play. It took 30 stitches to close the wound.

"He sent a message early on," Yeo said.

The Wild had to play catch-up after John Mitchell scored 2:07 into the game. The Wild somehow survived an all-Colorado period, one in which Granlund felt the Wild was "too excited" to play for the first time.

"Kind of flat almost," Koivu said. "Second period we turned it on and got the emotion back."

Steve Downie, one of the league's most undisciplined players, helped with three minor penalties in the first 6:22.

"There's no question penalties on us changed the momentum of that game," Avs coach Joe Sacco said.

Heatley tied the score by burying Parise's goal-line rebound. Less than a minute later, Granlund, the 2010 first-round pick and long-awaited 20-year-old, became the first Wild rookie since Marian Gaborik in 2000 to score in a season opener.

He deflected Jared Spurgeon's shot for a deflected past Semyon Varlamov.

"What a great feeling," said Granlund. "I enjoyed every moment of it."

Now up 2-1, the Wild wasn't done. Neither was Downie. He cross-checked Spurgeon, then out of frustration clobbered the young defenseman again while he was on the ice. That gave the Wild a four-minute power play, which became a 1:58 5-on-3 when Ryan O'Byrne held Parise's stick.

After Varlamov robbed Matt Cullen, Parise and Heatley, Parise centered a pass that caromed in off Heatley's left toe for a two-goal Wild lead.

"I was smiling the day we signed these guys, and I'm still smiling," Heatley said. "Zach is one of the best guys in the league down low at the goal line jamming it to the net, and you saw that tonight. Every power play he created something down there."

Granlund was terrific on both sides of the puck and impressed Yeo when he blocked a shot to preserve a 3-2 third-period lead.

"There's a kid stepping in and saying, 'You know what, guys? I want to be a part of this, and I'll pay a price for you guys,'" Yeo said.

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