Milan Hejduk had a goal and an assist and Patrick Roy made 24 saves as the Avalanche evened their Western Conference quarterfinal series at one game apiece with a 3-2 victory over the Wild.
Losers of their last three postseason contests, including two to Detroit in last year's conference finals, the Avalanche used their savvy against the inexperienced Wild to improve to 6-1 since 1996 when losing the first game of a series.
Hejduk gave Colorado the lead 4 1/2 minutes into the contest, scoring in his seventh consecutive game dating to March 29.
Roy allowed goals on the first and last shots he faced but nothing in between to earn his 149th career playoff win. He got help early in the third when Richard Park's shorthanded slap shot rang off the left goalpost, keeping Colorado ahead by a goal.
"They got a power-play goal late, but for the most part, we did a real good job," said Avalanche coach Tony Granato, who notched his first playoff victory. "Patty had to make a couple of big saves, and certainly the most important person on your penalty kill is your goaltender. Patty was able to make the saves when we needed him to."
Defenseman Greg de Vries snapped a 1-1 tie late in the first period and Brian Willsie netted his first career postseason tally less than six minutes into the third to give the Avalanche a two-goal lead.
"Obviously, (it was) disappointing at the start of the year," said Willsie, who began the season in the minors and played just 11 games with Colorado. "I just wanted to work hard down there and stay positive. ... Things worked out and I got an opportunity here, and I really don't want to waste it."
Willsie's goal became the game-winner when Andrew Brunette scored in the final minute. But it was not enough for the Wild, who return home for Game Three on Monday - the first playoff game in Minnesota since April 1992.
"I think their crowd is going to be into it and they're going to have great jump," Colorado left wing Mike Keane said. "It will be a real challenge for us. The only people that thought we were going to sweep them or win in five games is you folks (in the media). We are very respectful of them. ... We have a real tough job ahead of us."
Playing just his fifth career postseason game, Willsie nearly gave Colorado the lead in the opening minutes, but his breakaway attempt was denied by Dwayne Roloson.
While playing 4-on-4, Marian Gaborik took a hooking penalty and the Avalanche cashed in.
Defenseman Derek Morris unleashed a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that Roloson stopped. The rebound went to the low slot, where Hejduk picked it up and put it in an open right side at 4:22.
"The thing is, the rebound went on their stick instead of our stick," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "(On a) 4-on-3, they have three guys in front of the net and we got two. One guy is free. The puck comes to him, there's an open net and he puts it in."
Colorado's next power play proved more beneficial to the Wild.
Wes Walz knocked the puck away from defenseman Martin Skoula at the right point and carried down the left wing. After pulling up in the faceoff circle to pass, Walz wristed a shot that beat Roy to the short side at 8:09 to draw Minnesota even.
"To be honest with you, I was very nervous," Roy said. "I didn't get very many shots in the first game and today in the first period. In the first period, I only had four shots and one went in on the first shot."
Hejduk led a rush into the offensive zone on the right side before losing control along the boards after a hit. Surprisingly quiet in Game One, Peter Forsberg picked up the puck and carried to the goal line before backhanding a pass to de Vries, who beat Roloson from the right circle at 14:41 to put the Avalanche ahead.
"When you go down one (game) in your own building, it's a mental thing," Colorado defenseman Adam Foote said. "You lose energy thinking about it. They were aware of that. We wanted to come out strong in the first. We just wanted to make sure we didn't have our backs to the wall and have a good game."
Outshot, 13-4, in the first period, the Wild matched their total during an early power play in the second but were thwarted by Roy, who also stopped Gaborik on a 2-on-1 midway through the session.
"We had some power plays and we came close," Lemaire said. "We could have scored at any time, but we didn't. So there's the difference right there."
Colorado made it 3-1 when Willsie made good on his second chance 5:49 into the third.
Dan Hinote won a faceoff in the right circle and drew it back to defenseman Rob Blake at the point. Blake dumped the puck into the corner, where Hinote backhanded a pass in front for Willsie to knock in for his first goal since March 6, 2002.
"Willsie just headed to the front," Hinote said. "I just put it there and he put it in. Willsie is a great shooter. Anytime he's calling for it, there's a pretty good chance he's open. If he's open, he's got a pretty good shot."
The Wild cut the deficit to a goal when Brunette picked up the rebound of Sergei Zholtok's point shot and backhanded it off the right post with 36 seconds remaining.
"We got a split," Roloson said. "In playoff hockey, that's what you try to do. If you can get a split on the road, that's great. Now it's back into our building and hopefully, we can do well there."