Nichushkin scores OT winner in return to lineup, Avalanche beat Wild 2-1


DENVER — Valeri Nichushkin parked himself in front of the net in overtime and started whacking at a loose puck until it went in, setting off a roar from the crowd.

How’s that for a return?

Nichushkin knocked in a power-play goal 2:32 into overtime in his return to the lineup after a two-month absence, Alexandar Georgiev stopped a penalty shot late in regulation and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Friday night.

Nichushkin scored in the winner shortly after Kirill Kaprizov drew a penalty for hooking.

Nichushkin was back after receiving care through the player assistance program. It was his first game since Jan. 10. He was serenaded by fans as he remained behind on the ice for a very brief postgame interview.

He thanked the crowd.

His teammates later thanked him.

“We’re happy he’s back. He’s a huge part of our team,” Georgiev said. “Hopefully, good times for him coming up. Huge goal. He’s such a big competitor. He always wants to help us win.”

Added Colorado coach Jared Bednar: “It’s great to have him back and great to see the support he’s getting from our fans. … It can help a guy mentally when he’s feeling supported by the community and by our fans.”

Nathan MacKinnon extended his home point streak to 32 games with two assists. He’s tied with Guy Lafleur (1978-79) for the third-longest home point run in NHL history.

Artturi Lehkonen had a goal 42 seconds into the game for the Avalanche, who made a flurry of deals at the trade deadline. New additions Casey Mittelstadt, Brandon Duhaime, Yakov Trenin and Sean Walker were scattered throughout the lineup.

“The new guys looked great,” MacKinnon said.

Devon Toews scored with around 2:30 remaining in third third, but the Wild challenged for offside. After a review, the goal was taken off the board.

Georgiev made 29 saves. He also thwarted Mats Zuccarello’s penalty shot with 5:55 remaining. Georgiev was sprawled out when Zuccarello sent his shot wide. Zuccarello was awarded a penalty shot after Andrew Cogliano sent a stick laying on the ice into the Wild forward.

Both teams struggled on the power play, going a combined 1 for 8.

Brock Faber had a goal for a Minnesota team that showed few signs of fatigue after a 5-2 win the night before in Arizona. The Wild remain on the fringe of the playoff picture.

Colorado entered the game as the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging 3.70 goals-per-game. But Filip Gustavsson turned in big save after big save, with an assist to a friendly post as the Avalanche clanged a few shots off the iron. He stopped 38 shots.

“Tough back-to-back against a good fresh, hockey team,” Faber said. “Obviously (Gustavsson) played great and we gave ourselves a chance to win. It’s frustrating, though.”

Lehkonen scored early on a no-look pass from MacKinnon. It was MacKinnon’s 70th assist of the season (he later added No. 71). The last Colorado player to have 70 or more assists in a season was Peter Forsberg (77 in 2002-03).

Faber tied it in the second on a wide-open wrist shot. He now has 37 points this season, the third-highest mark for a rookie in Wild history. He trails only Kaprizov (51 in 2020-21) and Matt Boldy (39 in 2021-22).

For Duhaime, his first game in an Avalanche sweater happened to be against his former Wild teammates. He was a fourth-round pick by Minnesota in 2016 and spent his career with the team.

“Definitely a weird experience for sure,” Duhaime said.

UP NEXT

Wild: Begin a three-game homestand Sunday against Nashville.

Avalanche: Start a four-game trip Tuesday night in Calgary.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl



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