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Postgame: Wild snaps five-game road losing streak

  • Blog Post by: Michael Russo
  • December 15, 2013 - 9:17 AM

Just like the game in Denver a few weeks ago, it took 56-plus minutes to get one by Semyon Varlamov.

On Nov. 30, it was Matt Cooke and Mikko Koivu leading Minnesota’s comeback before losing in a shootout. Tonight, Nino Niederreiter won a board battle along the half wall, then drove the net and deflected Ryan Suter’s shot for the tying goal with 3:53 left.

Zach Parise (shootout goal No. 35 in his career) and Mikko Koivu (No. 33) scored in the shootout (Koivu on his patented backhanded roofer, the one Varlamov knew was coming and the same move Varlamov stopped a few weeks ago).

The 2-1 win snapped the Wild’s five-game road losing streak, although the Wild has been outscored 15-5 in the past six road games and has scored 29 road goals in 17 games (1.7 a game, 29th in the NHL).

Still, much-needed win to lower the temperature a bit and stop the bleeding. The Avs were a team that was 17-0 when scoring first, 18-0 when leading after two and the only unbeaten team in overtime or the shootout (5-0), so the comeback took effort.

This was not an easy game. Two goals scored, both off deflections, the Colorado one coming on a shot that was headed wide.

“It was a hard game,” Parise said. “The way they play D-zone, they play man on man and grab onto you and hold you and it’s tough to generate anything.”

Of course, the Wild only got one power play and now has drawn three or fewer in 15 of the past 16 games.

“I don’t how we’re going to draw a few more penalties than we do,” coach Mike Yeo said, shaking his head.

Obviously not a great road trip, scoring three goals in three games in three tough buildings and going 1-2. And it doesn’t get any easier. The Wild is 13-3-2 at home but return there Tuesday to face the Vancouver Canucks, a team John Tortorella has rolling right now. They killed Boston tonight to cap a 5 for 5 homestand. The Canucks have won seven in a row and eight of their past nine.

The Wild then plays four in a row away from St. Paul, where it’s 6-8-3. They go to Pittsburgh, the Rangers, Philly and then Winnipeg after the Christmas break.

Josh Harding had another strong game. He made 26 saves, another two in the shootout and now leads the league with a 1.49 goals-against average and is second with a .939 save percentage. Lots of robberies in the first period.

Brett Bulmer had a real good game on a solid line that included Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak. Bulmer had two shots and five hits and as Yeo said “was a pain in the butt.”

Bulmer, who played nine games with the Wild two years ago, earned this second straight game because Yeo said beforehand that he played “hard, physical” and showed “he’s not fun to play against” in San Jose.

Bulmer certainly got under the skin of Avs players all night Saturday.

“That’s me,” said Bulmer, Iowa’s leading goal scorer.

So he should get a third straight game. Erik Haula had some good shifts and some tough ones. He threw a couple up the gut of the offensive zone that resulted in turnovers. Niederreiter looked real good on a line with Jason Pominville.

The top line had some good shifts but no goals. Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon had strong games. Jonas Brodin didn’t. Ryan Suter had a good night after a real tough game in San Jose. He is playing hurt right now. He’s wrapped like a mummy everywhere after every game.

In other news that may or may not be in your newspaper's edition (go to www.startribune.com/wild for Dany Heatley notebook):

Yeo called San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan on Friday to apologize for accusing the Sharks of embellishing calls during his postgame scrum after Thursday’s 3-1 loss.

“My intention was not to call them out, my intention was not to call the refs out,” Yeo said. “I don’t want to be doing that stuff. At that point, I wanted to stick up for our players. It was emotional after the game. I was ticked off that our guys put a lot into the game and I felt there were a couple things in the game that made it tough on our group.”

McLellan told Sharks reporters he was upset when hearing of Yeo’s comments and appreciated Yeo reaching out.

“He was very professional, the organization was, they reached out, and we’re good,” McLellan said.

Also,

With the Wild planning to replace its center-ice scoreboard at Xcel Energy Center, Wild Chief Operating Officer attended Saturday’s game in Denver to see the Pepsi Center’s new state-of-the-art, giant scoreboard and observe the game operations.

Owner Craig Leipold attended October’s game at Tampa Bay to see the Lightning’s new scoreboard and the Wild plans to send a representative to Madison Square Garden to see the Rangers’ new scoreboard and games ops when the Wild plays there next Sunday.

Also,

Against Colorado, Yeo scratched rookie Justin Fontaine, who has six goals but none since Nov. 9, for the third time in nine games.

Yeo talked with Fontaine during the morning skate to tell him to keep his head up.

“We just deemed he wasn’t the right fit for this game,” Yeo said. “It doesn’t mean that won’t change next game. He’s got to keep a positive attitude. He’s got to understand that when you’re a young kid, you’re just paying your dues. He’s a first-year player … who’s still trying to prove himself.”

That's it for me. Barring news, no blog Sunday as the Wild has the day off. I'll be back with you Monday after practice in preparation for Tuesday's home game against former Northwest Division rival Vancouver.

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