DENVER – Dueling “Let’s Go Wild!” and “Let’s Go Avalanche!” chants, the sound of Devan Dubnyk’s “Dooooo” reverberating the arena, jeers meant for the Avs being drowned out by cheers meant for Minnesota on a couple penalty kills, Wild fans absolutely inundated and took over Pepsi Center on Thursday night.
They saw one of the weirdest games of the Wild’s season.
Jason Zucker’s goal 10 seconds in tied his own team record for fastest goal to start a game. Nate Prosser — Nate Prosser! — scored for the second time in three games. And the Wild, responding to a blown second-period two-goal lead, rallied before nearly blowing a second two-goal lead before a waved-off Avalanche goal was overturned twice for a crazy, wacky 4-3 Wild victory in the final meeting this season between the bitter rivals.
“It was an ugly game, that’s for sure,” said Nino Niederreiter, who along with Mikael Granlund gave the Wild a 4-2 third-period lead. “It was weird from the get-go. Found a way to win at the end of the day, but it wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure.”
But, as Niederreiter said, in the end the Wild won its 48th game and recorded its 104th point, matching franchise records. Those can be broken in Saturday’s finale at Arizona, a game Darcy Kuemper is slated to start.
“Obviously we’re doing something right this season. We keep winning games,” Granlund said. “But we want something more from this season.”
Niederreiter slam-dunked Eric Staal’s dish for his 25th goal, then Granlund ripped his 26th goal off the far post without necessarily trying to score.
“I didn’t see anything else I could do,” Granlund said. “Just threw it to the net. I don’t know how it went in.”
But that’s when things turned strange. Matt Nieto scored off a centering feed that deflected off a sliding Prosser and in with 5:40 left.
“I don’t think you can re-enact that goal if you tried a thousand times,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said.
Then, with 1:14 left, Colorado tied the score on Sven Andrighetto’s goal. But veteran referee Brad Watson waved off the goal.
The officials huddled, and after a long review, the NHL Situation Room in Toronto ruled good goal. Watson explained the decision to the Wild’s Ryan Suter and Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog before signaling the goal counted and awkwardly explaining the decision through a broken microphone.
Coach Bruce Boudreau challenged that Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon pushed defenseman Jonas Brodin into Dubnyk, who toppled over before the puck entered the net. Watson returned to the penalty box, looked at the video, and overturned the goal due to goalie interference through the inoperative mike.
The total time for the two reviews was seven minutes.
Avalanche fans, tuned out most of the night by Wild fans, voiced their displeasure before Minnesota won a third consecutive game for the first time in more than two months.
“I’m glad they got the call right even though the fans don’t agree,” Dubnyk said.
Dubnyk finished with 30 saves to extend his career-high and franchise record with his 40th victory. Only four NHL goaltenders will hit that mark this season.
“I thought I was going to get a little higher at the beginning of March. It took a little longer to get to 40 than I planned on,” Dubnyk said, laughing, referring to the Wild’s March slide. “If you told me at the start of the year that I was going to finish with 40 wins, I’d probably say, ‘Yeah, sure.’
Zucker, a University of Denver product, and Prosser, a Colorado College product, each scored in the first period. Zucker, who had one assist in his previous 11 games, scored on a wraparound, matching his own mark for fastest Wild goal to start a game. He also owns the team record for fastest goal to start a period (eight seconds).
“That was a lucky play. The goalie, he kind of hesitated a bit so I thought I could jump on it,” Zucker said. “I don’t know if there’s a better way to start a game, I thought that was good.”