DENVER – It’s taken 27 games, but the Wild has become the offensive juggernaut fans expected.
Or, the Wild simply exposed everybody to how frail the Colorado Avalanche is defensively.
It’s probably a little bit of both, but the Wild pulled off a home-and-home sweep with the Western Conference cellar dwellers Saturday afternoon at the Pepsi Center with a 6-4 victory.
The Wild scored 11 goals in consecutive meetings with the Avs — 10 at even-strength, with all four lines contributing on the score sheet.
Minnesota is in first place in the Northwest Division heading into Monday's game at second-place Vancouver.
“In the playoffs, that’s what you need to win these important games,” said Devin Setoguchi, who continued his torrid play with two goals, an assist and a career-high plus-4. “Every line, when they’re ready to go, it’s tough to lose.”
Setoguchi’s linemates, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen, were each plus-2. Bouchard is slowly escaping the doghouse. he had the winning goal and one assist for his first multi-point game of the season and second consecutive solid retort to three scratches in a row.
“I just want to get back to where I was before,” said Bouchard, whose second-period goal — his first since Jan. 29 — calmed the waters after the Avalanche trimmed the Wild’s lead to 4-3. “Am I there yet? I don’t think so. I don’t think in two games you can gain 100 percent of your confidence back. It’s a process, but I think I’m on the right track.”
Coach Mike Yeo said he’s glad Bouchard is “making a statement.”
Ryan Suter tries to make one every night and continued his impressive play with a power-play goal and assist. The defenseman now leads the Wild with 23 points. Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak each scored goals and linemate Dany Heatley had two assists as the Wild improved to 11-2-2 in its past 15 in the Mile High City.
“The way every line’s playing, they’ve kind of found an individual way to play to be successful,” Clutterbuck said. “It’s fun hockey to play when you can roll through.”
It was the seventh consecutive start for Niklas Backstrom, 11th in 12 games and 21st this season out of 27. Whether the 35-year-old was tired or out of his normal gameday routine with the afternoon start, he was fighting the puck for two periods before settling down.
Backstrom made 28 saves to improve to 23-5-3 career against the Avalanche (10-2-1 in Denver).
Yeo felt Backstrom made “huge saves” but is aware how often Backstrom is playing and says it’s something the coaches “will stay on top of.”
The Wild lit up and chased Jean-Sebastien Giguere by scoring four goals in the first. This was the same Giguere who surrendered one goal to the Wild in four games for Anaheim during the 2003 Western Conference Finals.
The Wild struck first for the seventh consecutive game. This is the same Wild that during one stretch this season went eight consecutive games without a first-period goal.
Looking to avenge Thursday’s loss, the Avalanche came out crabby. There were two fights in the first 4:20 (Mike Rupp sustained a lower-body injury in one).
But it didn’t deter the Wild from playing its game. The Wild built a 3-0 lead by the 9:04 mark on goals by Suter, Setoguchi and Clutterbuck in a 4:48 span.
The second period was ugly though. Backstrom looked shaky, and Matt Duchene set up goals by P.A. Parenteau and Gabriel Landeskog to pull Colorado within one.
But Yeo called time and reminded the Wild that it was still ahead by one on the road. Only 1:39 later, Landeskog coughed up a puck in the slot and Bouchard snapped a 15-game drought with a filthy, top-shelf backhander.
“Magic man did his job,” Setoguchi, who has nine goals since Feb. 9, said of Bouchard. “He’s just one of those guys that has so much skill and so much talent, it’s nice to see him in the lineup. To contribute, it’s even better.”