Two points were on the line, but four points were at stake. Head-to-head games against divisional rivals are more important than the two points the NHL awards the winner. Denying said points are just as rewarding.

The Avalanche on Thursday capped a perfect Central Division two-game stretch by building a big lead and holding on to beat Minnesota 5-4 at the Pepsi Center, finishing 4-0-1 against the Wild and downgrading the visitors into primarily hoping for a wild-card playoff berth.

The Avs, who on Monday downed the Stars 4-3 in Dallas, might look back on this week as the key to returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs in the inaugural year of the new postseason format.

The Central Division's top three teams will collect guaranteed playoff berths and the third-place Avs now have a commanding nine-point lead over Minnesota (with three games in hand) and a whopping 17-point cushion over Dallas and Nashville (with two games in hand).

"Big win for us. We have picked up nine points out of 10 (against Minnesota) and that's something great," Avs first-year coach Patrick Roy said. "We had to play well against these guys, and that's what we've done all year."

Colorado has 29 remaining games, plenty of hockey to be played, but Minnesota can't catch the Avs without the Avs self-destructing, and the Avs have yet to go on a prolonged losing streak under Roy.