With team captain Burish serving a one-game suspension for his disqualification last Saturday and Earl out of the lineup for being late to a Saturday morning practice, Pavelski was challenged with centering a brand new line.
While he admitted it felt a little different, the sophomore—playing between Andrew Joudrey and Jack Skille—fired 10 shots on goal and scored both Badger goals in the first period to pave the way to victory.
"It was really different after playing all of last year with the same two guys," Pavelski said. "But you've just got to go with it."
In fact, the whole team had to make adjustments as the lineup featured four completely out-of-the-ordinary line combinations. And while the whole team worked through it, it was Pavelski who shined.
"We needed him to play the way he did tonight. It was a big, big boost to us," UW head coach Mike Eaves said. "He has that ability to rise to occasions. I think that what he did tonight was take it to another level."
It was another physical contest between UW and Minnesota State, but with a completely shuffled lineup, the Badgers found a way to grind out the win, bringing their unbeaten streak to nine games to open the WCHA season.
"I think that speaks to our depth. We had people that jumped in our lineup," Eaves said. "[Burish and Earl] are two dynamic people, but we were still able to get the job done."
Pavelski got the Badgers on the board on the first period's lone power play at 10:45 of the opening period.
Wisconsin defenseman Tom Gilbert was pressured at the blue line, but made a spinning, no-look pass to Pavelski to hold the zone. The team's leading goal-scorer lined up and fired a blazing shot from the left circle top-shelf into the near-side corner to give his team the lead.
He got his second tally with less than two minutes left in the opening stanza on one of the weirdest game-winners ever.
The center got the puck behind the net and attempted to center it to Jack Skille. Instead, the puck glanced off MSU defenseman Steve Wagner's shin pad and over the shoulder of the unsuspecting goalie Dan Tormey.
The goofy goal turned out to be the deciding factor of the one-goal victory.
"Well, they got one off our shin pad … [in] a 2-1 hockey game," MSU head coach Troy Jutting said when asked what the difference was. "Good players get luck, he's an excellent hockey player."
After a slow start, the Mavericks picked up the pace over the final two periods, outshooting the Badgers in both.
Following a scoreless second period, MSU cut the deficit in half midway through the third.
UW goalie Brian Elliott made an initial save on Ryan Carter's shot, but the rebound went right to sophomore Joel Hanson, who deposited it into the net.
"[MSU plays] very hard," UW winger Nick Licari said. "When we play them it's key for us to match their hard. That's one thing they do very well—they show up every night. They're a tough team to play against."
The goal snapped a 160-minute stretch that Elliott had gone without surrendering a goal, and gave the Mavericks some extra energy. But they could not convert as Elliott stood tall to preserve the win.
Eaves said his goalie's 31-save performance may have been his best yet even though he could not post the shutout.
"It was a tough game, they're a team that likes to throw the puck at the net, and you've got to be ready for that," Elliott said. "I was seeing the puck really well."
The rookie Tormey continued his solid stretch between the pipes for MSU, making 31 saves of his own, though he was still saddled with his first loss in five games.
With the lineup presumably back to normal, Pavelski and the Badgers will look for the sweep and try to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games Sunday night.
The two teams square off at 8 p.m. at the Kohl Center.