ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild finally got to unveil their new cast, and Zach Parise and Ryan Suter helped send the crowd home happy.
Acquiring these coveted stars has heightened expectations, and the Wild opened this lockout-shortened schedule with a performance to match the hype.
Dany Heatley had two power-play goals on assists from Parise, and the offense-enhanced Wild surged into their much-anticipated season with a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
"For us to just go play, it really felt good," Parise said.
Parise put eight shots on goal and Suter blocked four shots from his spot on the blue line while playing more than 27 minutes, 6½ months after they stunned the NHL free agent market by signing 13-year, $98 million contracts with this team that has missed the playoffs the past four years.
"I was smiling the day we signed those guys, and I'm still smiling," Heatley said. "They've added a huge element to our team."
Mikael Granlund also scored for the Wild in his first NHL appearance, Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a late goal in his first game in more than a year and Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves to help make the amped-up crowd of 19,298 forget all about the 119-day work stoppage that delayed the opener by 3½ months.
"Tonight was awesome when we were coming out, the energy in the building. The boys were pumped up," Heatley said.
John Mitchell scored early in his debut for the Avalanche and Cody McLeod cut the lead to one with 14:51 remaining in the game, but they were done in during a penalty-ridden second period that had goalie Semyon Varmalov on his heels.
"We've got to stay out of the box," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "A couple of the penalties were penalties we shouldn't have taken. We have to do a better job of eliminating guys in front of the net."
With Parise, Heatley and Mikko Koivu, who added two assists, the Wild ought to have more guys in front of the net this season.
The addition of Granlund, their first-round draft pick in 2010, is another big boost. And Bouchard, who missed the last half of last season because of lingering concussion symptoms, is back to give the third line a healthy dose of skill and scoring touch.
"It was a great feeling," Granlund said. "I just want to enjoy every moment here now and just let it go."
After Steve Downie was called for cross-checking early in the second period, Parise's wrist shot bounced off Varmalov's blocker and back to Heatley, who knocked in the rebound and watched it graze the crossbar on the way in.
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