I didn't have a real good feeling going into this game. Sure enough, I had good reason. The Avalanche were beaten by the Wild 3-2. With the win, the Wild leapfrogged into first place in the NW division going into the All-Star break. Had Colorado won, they would have been in first. Instead, they limp into the break in 4th place in the NW and 8th in the conference.
It was a strange game. The Wild dominated in several stretches (most of the first period, and the second half of the second period). Minnesota jumped to a 2-goal lead in the first on goals from Todd Fedoruk (seriously) and Brian Rolston and it looked like this might be headed towards a blowout. But a fluke goal by Andrew Brunette with just 27 seconds left in the first gave the Avalanche a chance to pull back into it. Brunette's goal came when he shot wide of the net and Minnesota goalie Nick Backstrom accidentally deflected the puck into the goal. It was a gift, but it did make up for a chance Bruno had earlier when he missed a wide open net.
The Avalanche tied it early in the 2nd when Marek Svatos fed Wojtek Wolski in front of the net. I actually should back that play up just a bit further, as it was started by Tyler Arnason winning a draw (he was 43% on the net). That goal energized the team, and they finally began to show some significant pressure on the Wild. They couldn't capitalize on that energy, though, and before long the Wild were back in control, spending shift after shift in the Avalanche zone. It wasn't a matter of if the Wild would score again, but when they would score again. Pavol Demitra finally broke through at the 13:41 mark of the second, when he banged home a juicy rebound by Jose Theodore to score the game winner.
The Avalanche came on strong in the 3rd, but couldn't notch the equalizer. The Avs appeared to tie it around the 12 minute mark of the 3rd, but the goal was waved off due to the puck being knocked down by a high stick. The play saw the puck bounce high in the air in front of Backstrom and 3 players (Ben Guite, Jaroslav Hlinka and a Wild player) all fought to deflect the puck. The puck ended up bouncing into the net, but the ref waved it off immediately. In the NHL, they seem to review any goal where there's even a hint that there may be something wrong with it. Not this one, though. I wish they had. I wound my Tivo back a couple of times and it doesn't seem like Guite - the guy with his stick clearly above the crossbar - made contact with the puck at all. I think Hlinka might have made contact, but from the angle it wasn't clear if his stick was too high or not. I'm certainly not saying that it was a clear goal, but I don't understand how that doesn't get reviewed. And, considering how vehemently Guite and coach Quenneville argued against a lousy too-many-men call in the 2nd period, I have to say I was more than a bit surprised that neither seemed to argue much about the non-goal.
I imagine most of you saw Terry Frei's article yesterday where he discussed how this team has changed from a stylish, highly skilled team to a team of grinders. I have to say it was a bit strange to watch a game where the other team so clearly held the advantage in skill level. It used to be that teams that played us would try to slow things down, simplify things and try to punish us physically. Now, we are that team.
Notes are here
The only change was the return of Scott Parker in place of David Jones (who is back in the AHL). Things were, of course, mixed up in the 3rd period as the Avalanche tried to come back.
- Hlinka, Brunette, Hejduk: 1g 2a 3p +3 14:54
- Arnason, Wolski, Svatos: 1g 2a 3p -3 17:10
- Hensick, McLeod, McCormick: 0g 0a 0p E 9:43
- Guite, Laperriere, Parker: 0g 0a 0p E 10:02
- While Milan Hejduk had 5 shots (tied with Brunette for tops on the team), he was invisible for much of the night. Scratch the night part, there. He has just 5 points in his last 15 games.
- So far this month, Marek Svatos leads the team in goals (7), points (9), +/- (+4) and careless tripping penalties.
- At different points in the game, Brett Clark, Wojtek Wolski and John-Michael Liles all skated off slowly to the bench after a play (Clark's looked the worst after taking a blistering Kurt Foster shot off the inside of his foot). All finished the game, so keep those fingers crossed.
The Avalanche close out this disappointing home stand (1-2-1) against the Blackhawks next Wednesday.