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1/6 Colorado 2, Minnesota 1 (SO)

In an exciting game, the Avs won their 3rd straight, dropping the Minnesota Wild 2-1. The tightness of the NW division has been well documented. Every division game is vital, and this game had a palpable playoff atmosphere to it. Shots were relatively low (27-25 for Colorado), but there were numerous scoring chances and both Peter Budaj and Manny Fernandez made some spectacular saves.

Minnesota's Marian Gaborik returned from a groin injury, after having missed approximately 723 games. Gaborik is stunningly talented. As a hockey fan, I really enjoy watching him play. As an Avs fan...well, I wouldn't mind if that gimpy groin acted up the next time Colorado rolls into town. He played well tonight in his return, although I'm sure the trainers were holding collective breath when he took Ossi Vaananen hard into the boards on his first shift...or when Wojtek Wolski dumped him on his ass late in the 3rd.

Mikko Koivu opened the scoring at the 18:22 mark of the first period, with a quick shot from Mark Parrish's pass that seemed to catch Budaj by surprise. Other than that goal, Budaj was huge in the game, including the shootout, where he stopped 3 of 4.

Colorado tied it 4:16 into the 2nd period when Andrew Brunette found Kyle Cumiskey charging to the front of the net. Cumiskey fired it past Fernandez for his first ever NHL goal. Congratulations, Kyle. I don't imagine that's going to be his last - he's really looked good, despite falling a couple of times in the Avs zone.

>From that tying goal, the final period and a half was pretty much a constant nail-biter. Both teams had powerplay chances. Thanks to a late Marek Svatos penalty, the Wild had one final PP chance to win the game, but Peter Budaj just wasn't going to let anything past. Well, except for one shot with about 20 seconds left that dinged off the post - I absolutely loved the replay of him "thanking" that post afterward.

Kind of like the Dallas Stars, the Wild make their living in OT and the shootout, and sometime seem to be playing just to get through regulation with a tie. This is the 4th matchup between these teams, and only one has been decided in regulation. Interestingly, Colorado is now 0-2 in OT, but 3-0 in shootouts - an area they struggled tremendously in last season. Budaj, especially awful in shootouts last year, is now 2-0 and has stopped 5 of 7 shots.

EV Lines

Pierre Turgeon was a healthy scratch, giving Ben Guite a chance to center the 4th line (and kill penalties). After returning from a back injury on Friday, Brett McLean was a scratch - I didn't catch if it was injury related or not. He was replaced in the lineup and on the Arnason line by Antti Laaksonen.

  • Sakic, Wolski, Svatos: 11:43, 0 pts, 2 shots, -1

  • Arnason, Laaksonen, Laperriere: 12:46, 0 pts, 8 shots, E

  • Stastny, Brunette, Hejduk: 13:21, 2 pts, 9 shots, +1

  • Guite, Rycroft, Klee: 8:55, 0 pts, 2 shots, E

  • Clark & Skrastins: 21:15, 0 pts, 3 shots, -2

  • Liles & Vaananen: 12:10, 0 pts, 0 shots, E

  • Cumiskey & Sauer: 13:23, 1 pt, 3 shots, +2

Quick Hits

  • Peter Budaj now has just 15 minutes less than Jose Theodore

  • Tough night for the high numbers: #44 (Leopold), #53 (McLean), #71 (Brisebois), #87 (Turgeon) and #60 (Theodore) all sat out.

  • I really think that Sauer and Cumiskey make the Avs a better team both offensively and defensively over Klee and Brisebois. I do like having Klee dressed as a forward, giving Joel Quenneville flexibility to move him back to D in the third period, as he did last night. That is, as long as it doesn't mean sitting Cumiskey or Sauer, and both were out there at key times in the 3rd last night. The fact that Sauer was out there for that key PK late in the 3rd speaks volumes on Q's newfound confidence.

  • With Stastny, Wolski, Cumiskey and Guite, Colorado had 4 rookies in the lineup.