Avalanche edge Wild for rare victory

DENVER (Ticker) — The Colorado Avalanche have mastered overtime
and shootouts this season, and that dominance cost the Minnesota
Wild a chance to gain a valuable point in the Western Conference
playoff race.

Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski scored shootout goals and Peter
Budaj stopped both Wild attempts in the tiebreaker in the
Avalanche’s 2-1 victory on Thursday night.

The Avalanche are 9-1 in shootouts and 2-0 in overtime, but
their 18-37 record in regulation has them in last place in the
Western Conference.

“There’s a lot of things you can go back on in a year,”
Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. “I’m sure every team is
thinking the same thing right now.”

Marc-Andre Bergeron scored and Niklas Backstrom made 40 saves
for the Wild, who are tied with Nashville with 71 points for
ninth place in the West.

“The standings will change every day, every night,” Backstrom
said. “One point is better than nothing, but we have to go out
and get two points every night.”

Colorado’s solid effort Thursday made sure the Wild didn’t get
two points. Minnesota was outshot, 41-17, and Budaj only had to
make four of his 16 saves in the third period and overtime.

“We totally deserved to win because we outplayed them,” Budaj
said. “In the third and overtime, I think we dominated them.
Backstrom made some big saves.”

The Wild opened the scoring on their second power play.
Bergeron scored on a one-timer from the point with 9:45 left in
the first period, his 10th goal of the season.

A little more than a minute later, Cal Clutterbuck nearly gave
Minnesota a 2-0 lead, but Budaj made the save.

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John-Michael Liles tied it 37 seconds into the second period.
With Martin Skoula off for holding the stick, Liles blasted a
slap shot from the point past Backstrom for his ninth goal and
fifth on the power play.

“In the beginning of the second, we knew we had to take
advantage of that power play,” Liles said. “I tried to put as
much as possible behind it as I’ve got, which isn’t a ton, but I
was able to sneak one past him.”

Minnesota had a chance to take control in the second period.
Cody McCormick took a double-minor for high-sticking with 9:13
left, then Ryan Smyth was called for hooking with seven seconds
left in McCormick’s second penalty. In the 5:17 of power-play
time, which ended with a Minnesota penalty for too many men on
the ice, the Wild managed just one shot.

“What we need to change is our power play,” said Wild coach
Jacques Lemaire, whose team was 1-for-5 with the advantage. “We
didn’t play with any emotion when we were on the power play. We
wanted to get better, and we were worse.”

Minnesota generated few chances after the halfway point of the
second period and were outshot, 17-4, in the third period and

“There is no excuse for this,” Wild center Mikko Koivu said.
“There is no reason to play like we did. We are in a playoff
race, and every point is important right now. We can’t be
satisfied with this game. We have to be honest about it. We
weren’t very good and not very excited.”