Wild winger Chris Stewart started the week out of the lineup, a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
But by Friday, he was stationed at center ice with the chance to seal a victory in a shootout.
“He was staring me down,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I was afraid that if I didn’t put him out, he’d get mad at me.”
And given the opportunity to deliver, Stewart didn’t disappoint — sending the puck five-hole on Avalanche goalie Jonathan Bernier to finalize a 3-2 win. The victory in the matinee meeting between the Central Division rivals in front of 19,084 at Xcel Energy Center had Stewart and the team on the upswing ahead of a battle Saturday in St. Louis against the first-place Blues.
The Wild is 6-1-1 in its past eight games.
“It’s nice to have the vote of confidence from your teammates, and for Bruce to put me in there, it says a lot,” Stewart said. “It says a lot about us.”
The goal was Stewart’s 10th in 25 career tries, a prowess he was able to contribute in just his second game back after being a spectator Monday against the Devils.
The timeout came amid a goalless drought; Stewart hasn’t scored since starting the season with six goals in the first six games.
“I just have to get back to playing hard and playing physical,” he said.
Charlie Coyle converted the team’s other shootout goal, roofing a puck over Bernier after captain Mikko Koivu’s attempt was stopped.
At the other end, Wild goalie Alex Stalock turned aside center Nathan MacKinnon and winger Mikko Rantanen, after making 28 saves in regulation.
“After the first period, it was like he got mad at himself or whatever and said, ‘That’s it. Nothing else is getting in,’ ” Boudreau said of Stalock. “ … He just stood his ground, and he did a great job.”
The Wild fell into a 2-1 hole after one period despite opening the scoring just 1 minute, 13 seconds into the game when center Eric Staal set up winger Jason Zucker for a shot from the slot that eluded traffic and Bernier, who ended up with 25 saves.
But Colorado evened it at 10:23 on a shorthanded breakaway by winger J.T. Compher — the second shorthanded tally given up by the Wild this season.
The Avalanche added another goal before the period adjourned when winger Blake Comeau finished off a two-on-one rush at 15:54.
“We came in here down 2-1 and kind of settled things down and turned the page for me and made the saves I needed to make,” Stalock said.
The Wild was able to tie it off a blistering one-timer on the power play from winger Nino Niederreiter just 5:02 into the second. It was Niederreiter’s seventh goal during a six-game goal streak that ties the franchise record set by Brian Rolston Jan. 21-Feb.5, 2008.
“I’ve got great support from great players, and they’re making great passes to set me up,” Niederreiter said. “I’m lucky to be that guy right now.”
Overall, the power play went 1-for-2 while the Wild snuffed out three chances with the man advantage for the Avalanche.
Stalock was among the busiest penalty killers, especially to start the third. Colorado continued to pressure the Wild the rest of the period and had its best chance to pull ahead on a Compher breakaway, but Stalock was steady — keeping the Wild afloat until it found a rhythm in overtime where it outshot the Avalanche 6-0 before completing its comeback.
“That was a big win,” Stewart said. “We’re having a pretty good week here, and we can make it a great week by going into St. Louis and winning one.”