Friday night's game had the intensity of a playoff game, and that comparison isn't too outrageous.

If the Avalanche is to guarantee itself a playoff berth this season in the new format adopted by the NHL, it will need to finish among the top three teams in the Central Division. The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks figure to be tough to overcome, but the Avalanche would seem to have a chance to beat out the Minnesota Wild for at least the No. 3 spot.

The Avs got a leg up on the Wild with their 3-1 victory Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The teams meet again Saturday at the Pepsi Center.

Goals from Jan Hejda and Nathan MacKinnon, and an empty-netter from Gabe Landeskog, combined with the outstanding goaltending of J.S. Giguere, got the road win for Colorado, which has a two-point lead over the Wild with three games in hand.

"I thought we played a pretty good road game. We scored the first goal, and that's so important. We expected a push from them, which they did in the third, but we still came out with the win," Giguere said. "It's a back-to-back (set) against a division rival, first game of the season against them, a very important game. We didn't want to have to go back to Denver having to win. We just want to go back now and get another big win."

The short-handed Avs built an early lead, received a fortunate second goal in the second period and then relied heavily on Giguere, who allowed only a Dany Heatley second-period goal.

There were a few close calls, but Giguere was there to stay perfect on the season at 6-0-0. The Avs played a great final 90 seconds or so, not letting the Wild past the blue line despite the goalie off for the extra attacker.

Landeskog clinched the Avalanche's victory with a shot from the right boards, his third point of the night.