DENVER – If there’s one silver lining to take from the Wild’s 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night, it’s that coach Mike Yeo might have stumbled onto a dynamic scoring line, perhaps even after Mikko Koivu returns from an ankle injury.
Flashing chemistry on the power play two nights earlier in Anaheim, the line of Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville was reunited in the third period at the Pepsi Center and ignited a comeback.
The rally fell short, but the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line twice put the Wild, which trailed 4-1 heading into the third, within a goal.
One game after scoring the winning goal and having three points, Parise scored two goals on nine shots and had four points. Granlund set career highs with three points, 22 minutes in ice time and 12 faceoff wins, and Pominville scored a goal and assist.
“Those guys were going and we were trying whatever we could to get a spark,” Yeo said. “We just tried to get them out there as much as possible in that third period.”
Every shift of the third, the trio generated scoring chances. For the first time all night, the Avalanche spent frantic shifts scrambling in its zone as opposed to making the Wild run around for much of the first 40 minutes.
Unfortunately for the Wild, Pominville’s goal with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left came 11 seconds after 2013 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon caught the Wild cheating for the tying goal. Granlund had made it a 4-3 game, but MacKinnon sped in on a breakaway and beat Niklas Backstrom with a deadly shot.
“I liked how we got aggressive in the third period and held pucks in more,” Parise said. “But we put ourselves in a tough spot being down 4-1.”
Backstrom had replaced Darcy Kuemper late in the second. Kuemper gave up four goals on 23 shots through 36-plus minutes and was chased for the first time since his season debut Oct. 15.
John Mitchell, Paul Stastny and Maxime Talbot scored for Colorado in the second. The Wild was such a mess that period, Yeo wasn’t even able to execute a simple mercy pull without a glitch.
After Kyle Brodziak buried a puck into his own net for a 4-1 Avs lead, Yeo summoned Backstrom. For some reason, Backstrom had to retreat to the locker room to get his mask.
He took so long to emerge, fed-up referee Wes McCauley marched to center ice and dropped the puck.
The second-period onslaught began less than two minutes in after Jamie McGinn bulldozed defenseman Nate Prosser by Colorado’s bench. It was a thunderous check, and the Wild seemed to stop playing, Mitchell crossed the blue line and beat Kuemper from atop the circles with a softie.
The Wild earned a power play 32 seconds later but couldn’t capitalize despite some marvelous chances. That proved costly.
Four minutes later, Dany Heatley and Jonas Brodin, who had a rough game, couldn’t get a puck deep, then lost a board battle. Moments later, Kuemper kicked Erik Johnson’s shot onto the blade of Stastny, who got a step on Charlie Coyle. Replays appeared to show Stastny was offside.
Finally, Talbot scored when Brodziak had a puck land on his stick in the slot. Brodziak admitted to being “slow reacting,” and Talbot smacked Brodziak stick for a 4-1 lead. Brodziak, a minus-3 with linemate Matt Cooke, could do nothing but dejectedly hold his gloves against his face.
“We had some guys who had great games, and we had some guys who were below average,” Yeo said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of in between.”