April 27, 2013
DENVER • Devin Setoguchi broke a second-period tie and Niklas Backstrom stopped 29 shots, helping the Minnesota Wild secure their first playoff spot in five years with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
Zach Parise scored and Pierre-Marc Bouchard added a late empty-net goal for the Wild, who earned the No. 8 seed and will face top-seeded Chicago in the first round of the postseason. Minnesota had a chance to wrap up a spot on Friday, but lost 6-1 at home to Edmonton.
Backstrom came up big in the third period, turning aside 15 shots. He improved to 24-5-3 against the Avalanche.
Ryan O’Reilly had the lone goal for Colorado, which finished in last place in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if coach Joe Sacco is retained after the Avalanche failed to make the playoffs for a third straight season.
The Wild were thought to be almost a lock for the postseason after investing $196 million in free agents Ryan Suter and Parise. Just a month ago, the Wild led the Northwest Division but swayed down the stretch, going 5-8-1.
They had no wiggle room as Columbus — tied with the Wild for the final spot heading into the last game — rallied to beat Nashville, 3-1. Minnesota held the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.
Minnesota had a 5-on-3 advantage for 55 seconds in the third period, only to be stymied by Semyon Varlamov. The Avs goaltender also stopped Jason Zucker on a breakaway moments after the penalty expired.
Bouchard sealed the win by hustling down the ice and tapping the puck into the empty net with 3.4 seconds left.
This might have been the last NHL game for Colorado’s Milan Hejduk, who recently said he’s going to contemplate his future in the offseason before reaching any sort of decision about coming back for a 15th season. It’s been a tough season for Hejduk, the last remaining link to the 2001 Stanley Cup squad. He had a career-low 11 points and missed time with shoulder and torso injuries.
The 37-year-old Hejduk is second in franchise history in games (1,020), fourth in goals (375) and fifth in assists (430).