In the first four meetings of the season, the Avalanche and the Wild played tight games both on the ice and on the scoreboard.
Two games were decided in the shootout, while the other two were two-goal affairs that weren't solidified until the Avs scored late empty-net goals.
A close game was once again the case Thursday as Colorado survived a three-goal third period by Minnesota and pulled out a 5-4 victory at Pepsi Center.
The win helped extend the Avalanche's lead over the Wild for the final guaranteed-playoff spot in the Central Division to nine points. Colorado also has three games in hand on Minnesota and has the head-to-head tiebreaker in its back pocket after winning the season series, 4-0-1.
"It was a big win for us. More importantly, we picked up nine points of a possible 10 (against Minnesota), which is something great," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Our players certainly deserve a lot of credit for it. We had to play well against these guys and that is what we have done all year."
DENVER -- Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov had plenty to celebrate Thursday.
Varlamov signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension before stopping 31 shots in a 5-4 win against the Minnesota Wild at Pepsi Center.
Varlamov established a career high with his 27th win and set a franchise record with his 10th win in January as the Avalanche solidified its third-place standing in the Central Division.
"I'm excited," he said. "It's great news for me. I'm happy. I want to say thank you to the organization to give me a chance to play for this team. Thanks for my teammates. I think they have played very well for me. That's why I signed that contract, because they helped me."
Colorado (34-14-5) finished the season series with a 4-0-1 record against fourth-place Minnesota (29-21-6), and increased its lead to nine points (73-64) with three games in hand.
"It was a big game for us," said center Matt Duchene, who had two assists. "We have three games in hand, and we're up [nine] points in the standings. That puts us well ahead, and we just have to keep taking care of business."READ MORE >
The Colorado Avalanche players are very aware of where the team is in the standings: third in the Central Division with 71 points and a 33-14-5 record.
They also know they trail second-place St. Louis by six points and division-leading Chicago by eight points, and that Minnesota is chasing them for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the division.
The Avalanche will look to help itself in the standings and widen its seven-point lead over the Wild tonight in the final meeting of the regular season between the clubs.
"The standings are there in the hallway every day," Avs defenseman Nate Guenin said. "Guys are aware of where we stand. We just want to keep winning, keeping getting those points and keep climbing that ladder and make it tougher for the teams behind us to catch [us]."
In the first four matchups this season between the former Northwest Division foes, Colorado and Minnesota have played tight games, both on the ice and on the final scoreboard. The Avs have already won the season series, posting a 3-0-1 record, but two games were decided in a shootout and two more were one-goal affairs before Colorado pulled away with empty-net tallies at the end.
WILD (29-20-6) at AVALANCHE (33-14-5)
TV: Altitude, Fox Sports North
Last 10: Minnesota 6-3-1; Colorado 7-2-1
Season series: This is the fifth and final game. The Colorado Avalanche have won three of the first four meetings with two games being decided in a shootout. The Minnesota Wild are 1-0-1 at the Pepsi Center this season.
Big story: Minnesota will look to climb to within five points of Colorado for third place in the Central Division standings as the teams play out their final few games before the Olympic break.READ MORE >
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