ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Mikko Rantanen scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second period and Nathan Mackinnon had a goal and two assists for the Colorado Avalanche, who beat Minnesota 6-3 on Monday night to keep the Wild winless.
Ben Meyers and Samuel Girard scored in the first period for the Avalanche to put the first start for Wild goalie Filip Gustavsson with his new team in immediate trouble. Josh Manson added an insurance goal for the Avs in the third period, and Valeri Nichushkin tacked on an empty-netter.
Kirill Kaprizov’s second score of the game brought the Wild back within one a few minutes later, but Alexandar Georgiev stayed strong down the stretch in Colorado’s net and finished with 36 saves. After Freddy Gaudreau missed an open net on a short-handed rush, Mackinnon scored on the power play on the other end to seal it.
Joel Eriksson Ek had the tying goal on a power play redirection in the second period and Calen Addison had three primary assists, but the Wild still fell to 0-3-0. Gustavsson stopped 32 shots.
After allowing 14 goals over their first two games, the most in any such stretch in franchise history, the Wild badly needed every skater to sharpen their play and improve their decision-making in the defensive zone. Facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche was far from the ideal scenario for this test, even with captain Gabriel Landeskog still out with a lower body injury.
Minnesota’s season started rather ominously with a 7-3 defeat by to the New York Rangers on Thursday. After Marc-Andre Fleury allowed 11 goals on 49 shots over his first four periods, he was pulled at the first intermission in a 7-6 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. The Kings scored three times in 20 shots on Gustavsson.
Gustavsson never saw the first goal, just 3:30 into the game when Erik Johnson ping-ponged a shot off the stick of Kurtis MacDermid that hit Meyers with his back to the net in traffic in the circle.
Johnson flashed a surprised smile at his teammates in a moment of uncertainty about the celebration, but the rookie Meyers – who played in five games for the Avs last spring after leaving the University of Minnesota – was credited with his second career goal in his home state.
Gustavsson, who was acquired in a trade with Ottawa when Wild general manager Bill Guerin decided not to put Fleury in a job share and dealt Cam Talbot to the Senators, had more than enough time to stop the next two scores.
Girard muscled a backhander through traffic after outmuscling former teammate Tyson Jost for the puck, a bleeder that trickled into the net just after a particularly crisp and lively sequence for the Wild and took some life out of the crowd.
The 24-year-old Gustavsson had trouble controlling pucks, most egregiously when a dump-in by Mackinnon slipped out of his grasp to allow Rantanen to swoop in for the tap-in and a 3-2 lead midway through the second period.
Wild coach Dean Evason scratched rookie Marco Rossi, and his replacement Mason Shaw produced plenty of energy on the fourth line wing. Jost moved up to the first line to center Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, dropping Ryan Hartman down to the right wing on Eriksson Ek’s line. That’s the spot normally occupied by Jordan Greenway, who has not played yet while recovering from offseason upper body surgery.
The Avalanche return home to face Winnipeg on Wednesday.
The Wild finish their season-opening four-game homestand against Vancouver on Thursday.