ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Zach Parise scored one of Minnesota’s four goals in the second period and assisted on two others, helping the Wild overwhelm Semyon Varlamov and the Colorado Avalanche 5-0 in the season opener Thursday night.
Jason Pominville scored in the first period on one of Mikael Granlund’s two assists and helped set up a goal by Jared Spurgeon in the second. Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Suter scored, too, prompting chants of “Sieve! Sieve! Sieve!” from the fired-up overflow crowd. Varlamov, who gave up five goals on 38 shots, was replaced by Reto Berra for the third period.
The Wild finished with 48 shots on goal, setting a team record for the 14-year-old franchise. They had 47 in a loss at Colorado on Dec. 21, 2002.
Darcy Kuemper made 16 saves for the Wild in his fourth career shutout, including one in the playoffs last spring against the Avalanche.
For the defending Central Division champion Avalanche, coming off a franchise-record 52 wins, this was a stunningly flat start. Or maybe the Wild were just that good. They squelched all four power plays, holding the Avalanche without a single shot on net.
The end-to-end dominance was reminiscent of Games 3 and 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal in April, when the Wild outshot the Avalanche 78-34 to even the best-of-seven matchup they went on to win in overtime at Colorado in the decisive game.
Except this time, the Wild turned those scoring chances into flashing red lights behind the net.
Suter set up the first goal with a long lead pass that bounced beautifully off the boards to Granlund, whose shot off the rush was denied by Varlamov but became a rebound for Pominville to poke in.
Then the Wild really poured it on after the first intermission. Parise was all over the ice as usual, jockeying with Jan Hejda for position to knock in the rebound of his own shot to put the Wild up 3-0 during a 4-on-4.
Ryan Carter and Erik Johnson were given simultaneous roughing penalties for a scuffle around the Wild net that left Carter, who just signed with his home-state team this week, with a bloodied forehead and nose. But that was about all the fight the Avalanche showed on this night.
They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves Saturday with a rematch in Denver.
The Wild improved to 12-0-2 in home openers. They had a tie in 2000, their inaugural game at Xcel Energy Center, and lost in a shootout last year.
After advancing past the first round of the playoffs for the second time in their history and signing Thomas Vanek for more scoring depth, expectations are as high as ever for the Wild despite their daunting division.
With 11 players in their 20-man lineup age 24 or younger, there’s plenty left to prove, but with the poise and polish of leaders like Parise, Suter and Pominville, there are building blocks in place for a legitimate contender in a competitive conference.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.