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LAS VEGAS — The ice is under their skates, but the Wild play as if it is in their veins.

From eking out one-goal wins to avoiding third-period meltdowns, the Wild have been calm, cool and collected in the most pressure-packed moments during a late-season rise that could see the team clinch a playoff berth as soon as Saturday.

But now is when their poise could really come in handy.

Next up is a home-and-home series against Vegas that's a showdown for the top seed in the Western Conference.

"Good teams, that is a trademark where they stay very levelheaded and steady and composed in situations good and bad," coach Dean Evason said. "Yeah, our group has done that."

Gutsy efforts are powering the Wild's league-best 16-1-4 surge since Feb. 17, but their signature performance came Wednesday at Colorado.

After suffering two stinging defeats earlier in the season to the defending Stanley Cup champions and with first place in the Central Division on the line, the Wild overcame a late wave of adversity to churn out a 4-2 victory on the road and remain in the No. 1 spot.

Not only did the Avalanche outshoot the Wild 19-4 in the third period while cutting their deficit in half, but Colorado had a plump opportunity at the equalizer when Wild captain Jared Spurgeon was dinged with a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass with 52 seconds to go.

Even though the Wild disagreed with the ruling, they didn't lose their focus.

"We just gotta do the job right now," Frederick Gaudreau said. "Doesn't matter what the call was. Just gotta get the job right here right now done."

That's exactly what happened: The Avalanche got off only one shot on the ensuing 6-on-4 advantage, and after the rebound kicked out into the slot, Gaudreau gobbled it up and flung the puck into the empty net to put the finishing touches on a Colorado loss.

This improved the Wild to 30-0-2 when they lead after two periods, and their .938 win percentage is tops in the NHL; 12 of their 16 victories over the past 21 games have been in this scenario.

"We seem to stay composed in third periods and even when they get one there, we're not freaking out," Sam Steel said. "We're dialed in and sticking with the things we did from the start of the game."

How did the Wild become so even keeled?


"We've been in so many tight games this year, everyone knows," said goaltender Filip Gustavsson, who racked up 42 saves vs. the Avalanche. "Everyone's so mature in this league that they know if you panic in critical situations, there's going to be a goal and a big error. So, everyone knows you have to stay calm and just play like you always were."

In one-goal finishes, the Wild are 19-7-9, and they've either won or picked up a point in 23 of the 24 games they've been in that are tied with five minutes left in regulation. They're also 40-6-7 when posting a lead at any point, a nod to how rare it is for them to unravel.

"It's experience," Evason said. "It's going through the process. It's being in that situation and handling it correctly."

If they pass their next test, the Wild could end up atop the Western Conference.

They're only one point back of the Golden Knights for that ranking with a doubleheader on deck.

"It's just about [keeping] our habits right," Gaudreau said, "and to keep building and doing the things right and just carry that every single day and see where it leads us."