Avalanche Beat Wild, Snap Road Losing Streak
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Perhaps the secret to winning on the road for the Colorado Avalanche is showing up at the last minute and ditching the pregame skate.
Jan Hejda scored the go-ahead goal at 10:20 of the third period and the Avalanche snapped a nine-game road losing skid by beating the Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Monday night.
Instead of traveling to Minnesota on Christmas, the Avs flew early Monday morning. They touched down in the Twin Cities at about 11 a.m. CST for the 5 p.m. game.
“We might want to try it more often,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said, smiling. “Pregame skate is overrated.”
Colorado won on the road for the first time since Oct. 22 and extended Minnesota’s winless streak to seven games.
Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and T.J. Galiardi also scored for Colorado (19-17-1).
Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck scored for the Wild (20-12-5). Team captain and leading scorer Mikko Koivu returned after missing the last four games with a leg injury and had an assist.
The banged-up Wild were well-rested after the Christmas break, but saw another player get injured early in Monday’s game.
Defenseman Jared Supergeon was checked from behind by Cody McLeod and crashed face-first into the boards near Minnesota’s net at 5:42 of the first period.
Spurgeon was helped back to the locker room by a trainer and a teammate after laying on the ice for five minutes.
McLeod was given a game-misconduct penalty and was booed loudly by fans at the Xcel Energy Center as he skated off the ice.
“I didn’t like the hit one bit,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “On top of that, it was something that looked like they were targeting him. They hit him from behind two shifts before that. Twice in five minutes into the game he gets hit from behind? That one was ugly.”
Sacco said after the game that he hadn’t seen a replay of the hit and that his view was obstructed by the net when it happened.
“I know that Cody was forechecking hard like he always does,” he said. “You don’t want to see anybody get hurt in those situations.”
Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored on the ensuing power play to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.
Landeskog swung the momentum back to Colorado when he tied the game at 2 with just over a minute to play in the second period. The rookie stuffed the puck past goalie Niklas Backstrom’s right skate for his seventh goal.
“It gave us huge momentum for the third period and that’s exactly what happened,” O’Reilly said. “You can feel the boys a little more excited in the room, a little more life and it transferred over to the ice.”
Minnesota got off to its fastest start in franchise history and entered Monday atop the Northwest Division despite their recent struggles.
During their skid, Minnesota has lost four straight in regulation and gone from a team that dominated in the third period to a team that appears lost in crunch time.
“This is still part of our process,” Yeo said. “We passed the test earlier about how we would do if we were having success. But where we clearly have to improve is when things are not going well, how does that affect you?”
Getting Koivu back should help.
“You have to battle through,” he said. “Every single player in the lineup needs to battle through.”
Goalie Semyon Varlamov had 20 saves and won for the first time since Dec. 13. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made the last four starts for Colorado.
The Avs tied it at 1 at 10:34 of the second period when O’Reilly redirected a pass past Backstrom for a power-play goal.
Clutterbuck gave Minnesota the lead a couple of minutes later before Landeskog’s goal late in the second.
After scoring on the power play following the hit on Spurgeon, the Wild didn’t score in its next five power-play opportunities.
Hejda said that got the Avs going.
“Nobody likes to have two days off and then fly to Minnesota at 8 o’clock in the morning, have no morning skate and start to play a game,” he said. “That was pretty hard. Killing penalties, that gave us more confidence. That was kind of a warm up for some guys.”
NOTES: Avalanche defenseman Kyle Quincey was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. … McLeod entered Monday 11th in the NHL in penalty minutes. … Dany Heatley had two assists for his first multipoint game since Nov. 8. … Devin Setoguchi (ankle), Casey Wellman (wrist) and Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion) remain out for the Wild. … Minnesota was on the penalty kill seven times, tying a season high.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)