During a four-game winning streak the Wild had usually been outshot but had turned just about every chance into a goal while crawling out of the hole of having lost six straight.
Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, in front of an announced 19,117 fans, the tables were turned.
In control much of the night, the Wild lost 4-2 to Colorado because the Avalanche made Minnesota pay for nearly every mistake.
The last? Colorado center Ryan O’Reilly took the puck away from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, worked a give-and-go with Matt Duchene, then scored over Niklas Backstrom with a wicked backhand at 12:44 of the third period — his second goal of the game — breaking a 2-2 tie.
“We weren’t giving up much,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “Maybe we could have done more to create here or there. We had the puck the majority of the time. It’s frustrating not to get a least a point there.”
Especially since the loss wasted the first two-goal game of Charlie Coyle’s career. The goals came just 40 seconds apart in the second period, shortly after the Wild had spotted the Avalanche a 2-0 lead. The goals — both assisted by Dany Heatley — wrested the momentum back, and the Wild took that into a third period in which it outshot Colorado 14-6.
But the Wild couldn’t cash in, and the Avalanche did. Maxime Talbot’s empty-net goal finished the scoring.
“I think, for the most part, we played a decent game,” Coyle said. “Sometimes that happens. But we did some good things.”
But the Wild (24-18-5) couldn’t finish enough scoring chances.
Colorado (28-12-5) made sure every Wild mistake was costly. The Avalanche opened the scoring on Gabriel Landeskog’s goal at 9:08 of the second period, which came at the end of a 3-on-2 rush created when the Wild defensemen pinched.
Colorado made it 2-0 four-plus minutes later. The Wild appeared to have succeeded in killing off two penalties, including 48 seconds of a 5-on-3, but seconds after the last penalty expired, John Mitchell found O’Reilly to Backstrom’s left. His bad-angle shot from beneath the circle got through Backstrom’s pads.
“I’d like to have that one back,” said Backstrom, who stopped 14 shots while seeing his three-game winning streak end.
But the Wild blitzed back. Less than 2 minutes after O’Reilly’s first goal, Coyle worked a give-and-go with Heatley, getting the puck in the slot and beating Semyon Varlamov between the pads. Then, 40 seconds later, he one-timed Heatley’s setup over Varlamov to the stick side.
The score remained tied until Colorado cashed in again.
And now the Wild has to make sure that this loss doesn’t bleed into Sunday’s game in Nashville.
“When we started to win some games, we were starting to get some confidence back,” Yeo said. “Especially in our game. We had the trust that if we go out and do the right things, that the result will be there for us at the end of the game. That’s what we have to guard against, to make sure now that we don’t deviate from that. We have to continue to do the right things. … There will be times when you play well and you don’t win. You have to make sure you come back the next day and get back to it. That’s what we talked about.’’
We’ll see Sunday if everybody listened.
“That’s the beauty of it,” Coyle said. “We get to play [Sunday] night, get right back at it.”