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Smith ends long scoring drought as Wild edges Avalanche 4-3

But Smith ended his goal-scoring drought as the Minnesota Wild withstood a third-period rally by the Colorado Avalanche for a 4-3 win Thursday night. Smith, who last scored Feb. 13, 2004, when he was with Nashville, backhanded a shot over Colorado goalie Peter Budaj's shoulder. "I didn't know where (the shot) was going," he said. "So if I don't know, he (Budaj) doesn't know. Hopefully, it doesn't take another 92."

Minnesota has won nine of its past 12 road games since ending an 11-game road winless streak Jan. 11. The Wild are 8-2-1 in their past 11 games.

Yet the win wasn't as easy as it could've been for Minnesota. Leading 3-0 midway through the third the usually defensive-minded Wild allowed goals by Colorado's Ken Klee and Brad Richardson 2:28 apart to pull the Avalanche within a goal.

Mikko Koivu restored a two-goal lead at the 17:46 mark of the third. Marek Svatos, however, scored 29 seconds later after Colorado pulled Budaj to make it 4-3.

The Avalanche pulled Budaj again with 43 seconds left, but couldn't score.

"They are never easy. They aren't easy, and this one wasn't easy," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Adam Hall, Todd White and Koivu also scored for the Wild and Niklas Backstrom stopped 28 shots. Mark Parrish contributed two assists.

Backstrom made his 10th straight start filling in for the injured Manny Fernandez, who's out with a left knee sprain. Backstrom was stopping everything until the third-period frenzy. He faced 16 shots through two periods and 15 in the third.

"They came at us," Backstrom said. "I didn't think they'd ever let up before the end of the game."

The Avalanche slipped back into last place in the Northwest Division. They've made the playoffs every season since moving to Denver in 1995, but that streak may be in jeopardy. They know they needed points against Minnesota.

"We have just been falling short," said Andrew Brunette, who had two assists. "We have been banging our head all year.

"You just have to win the next one. That's a broken record, but anything can happen. I guess we just try to build off (this game)."

Joe Sakic and Paul Stastny each extended their point streaks to 10 games with assists. Stastny's streak is the longest by an Avalanche rookie since the team moved to Denver.

Stastny finished with two assists.

"We haven't really been able to sustain some type of streak in a positive way," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was a tough one tonight."

Smith and White scored 1:19 apart in the second to give the Wild a 3-0 lead.

Hall scored his second goal since the Wild acquired him from the New York Rangers for Pascal Dupuis on Feb. 9.

Although Smith has officially ended his goal drought, he's not concerned with becoming a scoring threat.

"I'm here to provide other things," Smith said. "I know it is a thankless job. "I have a role and I understand it. I have to accept the opportunities I have and finish and play hard. Most guys have pucks go off pads or sticks. I haven't had those kinds of breaks."

Notes: Colorado rookie F Wojtek Wolski missed his third game with a mild concussion. He suffered the injury after a collision with Calgary's Craig Conroy on Feb. 17 . . . Minnesota D Kim Johnsson played in his 500th career game Thursday night . . . Colorado is 12-4-2 all time against Minnesota at home . . . Svatos scored for the second straight game. He'd been benched recently for a lack of scoring.



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