The Minnesota Wild got its captain back, but still found a way to lose to the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 at Xcel Energy Center.
Getting Mikko Koivu back did not help the Wild improve its 3-5-3 record in its first game after the Christmas break.
“That’s real,” Wild head coach Mike Yeo said. “That’s not an excuse. It showed up in the lack of detail in our game.”
Koivu said it best about having two days and the effect it had on the game.
“It is the same for every team. We’re at home and they had to travel. That is not an excuse.”
Koivu, who last played in the shootout loss to the Blackhawks, missed four games. The team was 6-11-3 without Koivu since the start of the 2008-09 season, including the last four losses.
“He is always a huge part of our team,” Cal Clutterbuck. “He brings a spark. He brings energy.”
The Wild (20-11-5) lost defenseman Jared Spurgeon to an injury after getting shoved from behind into the board behind the Wild’s goal. He was helped off the ice by the Wild’s trainer and a teammate while putting no pressure on his left leg. He did not return and may miss a few games.
“I didn’t like the hit one bit,” Yeo said. “On top of that, to me, it looked like something they were targeting. They hit him from behind two shifts before.”
Pierre-Marc Bouchard got the Wild on the board at the 9:31 mark of the opening period with a one-time snap shot off a pass from Dany Heatley on the power play. Bouchard’s shot glanced off the stick of an Avalanche defender and arm of the goaltender before getting to the back of the net.
Bouchard’s goal salvaged a five-minute power play that was disappointing. The Wild had some opportunities in the first minute and a half, but nearly all of the next two-plus minutes trying to get into the Avalanche. At one point, Niklas Backstrom kept the game scoreless with left pad save on a breakaway by Kevin Porter.
Clutterbuck scored his team-lead tying 10th goal of the season with a wide open one-timer off a pass from Koivu to give the Wild its second lead of the game. Heatley recorded his second assist of the game.
“Mikko is really good,” Mike Yeo said. “On that second goal things were looking good when he goes in and makes that play.”
Backstrom made the save of the game and what should be the play of the week with a diving stick save to rob Matt Hunwick on the backdoor.
Mike Lundin had a rough night for the Wild. His defensive miscues resulted in two Avalanche goals.
The first came on the power play when he was watching the puck. Ryan O’Reilly moved into the backdoor and Matt Duchene sent a perfect pass for him to tap the puck into the wide open net.
The second came when he couldn’t gather in a puck behind the Wild. He did not have position to defend the goal and lost the battle for the puck to goal scorer Gabriel Landeskog. He had his back against the boards, which allowed three Avalanche players and unobstructed path to the front of the Wild net.
The third Avalanche goal also came on a defensive miscue. This time Jarod Palmer got caught watching the puck and lost track of Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda.
“The goals they scored there’s things we are doing there,” Yeo said. “It was not out of our control.”
The Wild rose to the top of the NHL with strong play finishing games, but during the skid it has been the opposite.
“A couple goals in the third period kind of deflated us,” Clutterbuck said. “We didn’t have any push. It is the exact opposite of what started the year doing.”
No. 3 – T.J. Galiardi. The Avalanche forward scored a goal and had an assist.
No. 2 – Ryan O’Reilly. The Avalanche forward scored a goal and had an assist.
No. 1 – Jan Hejda. The Avalanche defenseman scored a goal and had an assist, including the game-winning goal.
Colorado 0 2 2 – 4
Minnesota 1 1 0 – 2
First Period – 1, Minnesota, Bouchard 7 (Heatley, Brodziak), 9:31 (pp). Penalties – O’Brien, Col (interference), :37; Johnson, Min (tripping), 3:04; McLeod, Col, major (checking from behind), 5:22 (served by Malone); McLeod, Col (game misconduct), 5:22; Hejda, Col (holding), 17:46.
Second Period – 2, Colorado, O’Reilly 9 (Duchene), 10:34 (pp). 3, Minnesota, Clutterbuck 10 (Koivu, Heatley), 12:00. 4, Colorado, Landeskog 7 (Van Der Gulik, Galiardi), 18:58. Penalties – Heatley, Min (holding), 4:15; Landskog, Col (goaltender interference), 6:11; Schultz, Min (hooking), 9:22; Powe, Min (hooking), 16:27.
Third Period – 5, Colorado, Hejda 4 (O’Reilly, Van Der Gulik), 10:20. 6, Colorado, Galiardi 6 (Hejda)Penalties – Hunwick, Col (hooking), 1:52; Palmer, Min (interference), 6:13; Brodziak, Min (tripping), 10:33; Cullen, Min (tripping), 15:33.
Shots on goal – Colorado 7-12-13 32. Minnesota 8-5-9 22.
Goalies – Colorado, Varlamov (20-22). Minnesota, Backstrom (28-32). A – 19,290. Referees – Dean Morton, Chris Lee. Linesmen – Ryan Galloway, Brian Mach.