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Game 8: Wild 3, Avalanche 2

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photo courtesy of Paul Battaglia/AP

In a game the Colorado Avalanche absolutely had to win, they didn't.  They got close, tying the score at 2-2 in the second period, but Peter Budaj's strong goaltending alone couldn't prevent the Minnesota Wild from extending their unbeaten-in-regulation season record to 7-0-1.  The Avalanche road record is now 0-4.

For the third game in a row, the Avalanche fell behind by multiple goals, after both Mark Parrish and Brian Rolston scored on power plays during the first half of the second period.  Blame Jordan Leopold for those, since he spent almost half the period in the box on dumb penalties.  The Avalanche surged back to tie, however, with their own power play score by Tyler Arnason and another tally just two minutes later by Andrew Brunette.

The Avs defense, which struggled periodically, had everything under control for most of the second and almost all of the third periods, but a sweet fake move behind the net by Mikko Koivu ended with the game-winning goal stuffed through Budaj's left pad.  With only three minutes left to play, the Avs were done.

Milan Hejduk was missed on offense, out again with a sore back.  Paul Stastny failed to get on the scoreboard, and his five-game point streak ended.  Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski both had extremely strong performances, and each managed an assist.

Peter Budaj had an overall excellent night, making huge plays and stopping incredible scoring chances by a Wild offense that looked stronger than in previous games.  Considering two goals were scored on power plays (one of which was a 5-on-3) and the other was the fault of a badly-beaten Brett Clark (and Paul Stastny), Budaj can't be blamed for the team's overall failure to win.  Unfortunately, Coach Quenneville will no doubt blame him for it.  Let's hope it doesn't happen, but it wouldn't surprise me if Jose Theodore gets the start against Edmonton on Tuesday.

The Avalanche absolutely must get it together on the road.  Their failure to win is inexplicable.  A team with so much talent and depth on paper should not be struggling so much so early in the season.  Instead of atop the Northwestern Division standings where they belong, the Avs are tied with Vancouver for third place, seven points behind the Wild and two points behind the Flames---who had a horrible 0-2-1 start.

The Avalanche continues a four-game road trip with game three against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.  The Oilers have been horrendous so far this season, and have lost five games of their last six.  If the Avs can't beat them, things will be worse than they appear already.

Stars of the Game:

  1. Niklas Backstrom (29sv, .935)
  1. Mark Parrish (1g, 0a)
  1. Mikko Koivu (1g, 0a)