DENVER – It’s taken 27 games, but the Wild has finally become the offensive juggernauts 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 convincing home-and-home sweep with the Western Conference cellar dwellers Saturday afternoon at the Pepsi Center with a 6-4 victory.
The Wild, 11-2-2 in its past 15 in the Mile High City, scored 11 goals in the consecutive meetings with the Avs – 10 at even-strength.
Devin Setoguchi continued his torrid play of late with two goals and an assist and was a career-high plus-4. His linemates, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen, were each plus-2, with Bouchard slowly escaping from the doghouse with the winning goal and assist for his first multi-point game of the season.
Ryan Suter scored a goal and assist and now leads the Wild in scoring with 23 points.
Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak each scored goals and linemate Dany Heatley had two assists.
It was the seventh consecutive start for 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 dramatically for two periods before settling down in the third.
He made 27 saves to improve to 23-5-3 all-time against the Avalanche (10-2-1 in Denver).
The Wild lit up and chased Jean-Sebastien Giguere by scoring four goals in the first period – the sixth time in franchise history the Wild’s scored four times on the road in a period. Remember, 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 – quite a feat for a team that during one stretch this season went eight straight games without a first-period goal.
Looking to avenge Thursday’s loss, the Avalanche came out fighting. There were two fights in the first 4:20 involving Justin Falk and Mike Rupp, who was injured, and John Mitchell basically assaulted Tom Gilbert.
The Wild stood up to the challenge and jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the 9:04 mark on goals by Suter, Setoguchi and Clutterbuck in a 4:48 span.
Suter got it started with a one-time laser on the power play, and that was quickly followed by Setoguchi drilling Cullen’s pass after Cullen’s blue-collar work behind the net.
Soon after, Heatley hit the post, but the puck fell at Clutterbuck’s feet. He turned and shot from a bad angle for his third goal.
Mitchell trimmed the deficit to 3-1, but the Wild answered three minutes later with Brodziak’s fourth goal after Heatley again hit the post. Heatley registered his 400th career assist on the goal, while Setoguchi hit No. 100.
It was the first time the Wild’s scored four goals in the first period since Jan. 24, 2008, and first time on the road since March 25, 2004.
The second period was ugly though. Backstrom looked shaky from the start, and Matt Duchene set up goals by P.A. Parenteau and Gabriel Landeskog to pull Colorado within one.
But Yeo called time out, unleashed some fury onto the Wild and it regained a two-goal lead 1:39 later. Landeskog coughed up a puck in the slot and Bouchard scored his first goal since Jan. 29 to snap a 15-game drought on a filthy backhander. That seemed to stop Colorado’s momentum.
Setoguchi gave the Wild insurance late in the third with a breakaway goal after Bouchard set him up with a nice saucer. It was Setoguchi’s ninth goal and 15th point in the past 17 games after going scoreless with two assists in his first 10.