DENVER - Marek Svatos is fast becoming Colorado’s newest ice idol. In his third game since moving to the top line, Svatos scored the winning goal in the Avalanche’s 4-3 victory against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday before the usual sellout crowd of 18,007 at Pepsi Center.
Svatos leads the NHL with seven game-winning goals and is second among rookies with 18 goals, one behind Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin. “Scorers know where to go,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “A lot of it’s instincts.” Svatos shared the spotlight with a fellow 23-year-old Slovakian, goalie Peter Budaj. “Budaj was the difference in the game,” said Colorado’s Antti Laaksonen, who scored the game’s first goal, his first in 20 games. “(Budaj) stopped them when they had three glorious opportunities in the second period,” Quenneville said. Colorado (18-14-3) had lost four of its previous five games. Minnesota (14-16-4) had won two straight. Colorado leads the NHL with 50 first-period goals and led 3-2 after a wild first period. All five goals were scored in the final 7:06 of the period. Colorado twice opened a two-goal advantage before the Wild fought back, the second time with a power-play score. Laaksonen, who played the last four seasons with the Wild, gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead. Andrew Brunette scored 1:47 later to make it 2-0. Brent Burns scored for the Wild but Brett McLean countered for Colorado for a 3-1 lead, although the goal should not have counted. “It cost us the game, basically,” Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik said. Replays showed that McLean’s shot from an odd angle slid under the side of the goal, not between the post and goalie Dwayne Roloson. “It wasn’t really a goal,” Quenneville said. “We got a break, and we’ll take it. Those eventually even out.” Andrei Zyuzin’s power-play goal made it 3-2 just 19 seconds before the first period ended. The Wild tied it 3-3 with 8:33 left in the second period on Mikko Koivu’s goal. Svatos scored the game-winner 36 seconds into the final period, with linemates Alex Tanguay and Joe Sakic earning assists. “I’m playing with great linemates, so I’ll get a lot of opportunities,” Svatos said. “Alex and Joe had a great battle behind the net, and Joe gave me a perfect pass.” Colorado’s Ian Laperriere said Svatos is improving fast. “I like how hard he works,” Laperriere said. “He’s not a big kid (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) but he hits people and does the dirty work. “Some goal scorers just float around and look for chances to score. Not Marek. He’s having a hell of a season.” Etc. The teams finish their homeand-home with a game at Minnesota tonight. That will be the second of eight games between the teams this season. . . . Colorado leads the all-time series 15-2-3-2. Minnesota is 1-9-2-0 at Colorado. . . . The Avalanche won’t practice Saturday or Sunday but will host Phoenix on Monday. . . . Colorado is 15-6-2 when scoring first this season and 11-2-1 when leading after the first period. . . . Colorado has 456 consecutive sellouts, the longest streak in NHL history.