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Avs snap Wild’s 5-game win streak

Late rally falls short as Colorado beats Minnesota for first time this season

Newly-acquired Chris Stewart scored his first goal as a member of the Wild on Sunday in Minnesota’s 3-2 loss to Colorado at Xcel Energy Center. (Getty Images photo / Bruce Kluckhohn)

Late rally falls short as Colorado beats Minnesota for first time this season

The Colorado Avalanche demonstrated that no NHL team is unbeatable Sunday night, holding off a team that maintained possession of the puck most of the evening to claim a 3-2 win over the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota had won five games in a row and eight of its previous nine, but the highly anticipated matchup against the Avs ended with 19,119 home customers going home a bit dissatisfied.

There were just seven penalties and one fight, despite an abundance of pregame chatter about the sky-high animosity between the combatants.

“The hype and the build-up to these games is almost 90 percent of the time far more than what the outcome is,” Wild coach Mike Yeo noted.

The Wild, their fans pumped from the drop of the puck for something dramatic, not only did not kick butt but were not even able clamp down on chief antagonists Cody McLeod and Gabriel Landeskog. The duo who drew NHL fines for their antics at the conclusion of the most-recent meeting between the teams nine days previous each scored as the Avs beat the Wild for the only time in five meetings this season.

Bad-boy McLeod scored Colorado’s first goal and Landeskog the game-winner early in the third period as the Avs fended off a Minnesota attack that outshot them 34-21 and launched an additional 35 shots that were blocked or went wide.

The total, including Colorado’s 14 attempts that were blocked or missed the net: 69 to 35 in favor of the home team.

“I thought we dominated the play,” Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. “They got a couple of bounces, but we played a solid game. We just weren’t able to score early.”

Goals in the final two minutes of each of the first two periods gave Colorado a 2-0 lead, and the Avs made it 3-0 on Landeskog’s power-play marker just 1:19 into the final period.

“We tried hard to climb back in it, but we couldn’t get enough,” Wild winger Zach Parise observed.

Tried valiantly, truth be told.

With the Wild on a power play and more than seven minutes remaining, Yeo pulled goalie Devan Dubnyk for nearly a minute to try to slice into the 3-0 deficit.

They were stymied by goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Minnesota’s Chris Stewart – he dropped the gloves to square off with McLeod just 43 seconds into the game – got a bounce off a defender to bring the Wild within 3-1, but by then, less than six minutes remained. Thomas Vanek’s rebound goal pulled the Wild within one in the final minute, but the Avs held on.

The sport of hockey simply does not always dispense justice, Parise said.

“We played one good period in Carolina (on Friday) and got away with a win there,” he said. “I don’t think we played well enough tonight throughout the whole game to get a win from those guys. You could tell they were ready right away.”

As expected, Stewart said.

“Any time you play a division game, you know it’s going to be a tough battle,” he said. “It’s going to be tough; it doesn’t matter who you’re playing or where they are in the standings. Everyone’s coming for two points.”

This was a rare game when the other goaltender made the biggest plays: Varlamov stopped 29 of 30 shots before leaving late in the third period, apparently because he was hit in the neck or shoulder earlier by a blast off the stick of Matt Dumba.

Dubnyk, who started his franchise-record 24th consecutive game, stopped 18 of 21 shots and saw his scintillating record with the Wild drop to 18-4-1 with a .937 save percentage.

But as Suter observed, this turned out to be one of those nights for the Wild.

“I thought we did enough good things to maybe win,” Yeo said, “but not enough good things to make certain we won.”

BB covered sports for the Minneapolis Tribune for 13 years and for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for 20 years following stints at the International Falls Daily Journal and the Duluth News-Tribune. He was on the Wild beat as well as Gophers men's and women's hockey at the Pioneer Press. He lives in Minneapolis. Follow Bruce on Twitter @RealBBrothers

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