Wild lacks closing touch as skid hits seven

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2011 - 7:49 AM

Colorado tied the score late in the second period and controlled the third, sending coach Mike Yeo's team searching for answers.

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Earlier in the season, when the Wild was stockpiling victories in a way few could have imagined, the team closed out games. The Wild finished treated the third period like its own personal property.

Not so much lately.

Monday, after a three-day holiday break that coach Mike Yeo hoped would be a chance for a new start, the Wild continued a story that's getting old. Colorado came back from a one-goal, second-period deficit to score the game's final three goals in a 4-2 victory at Xcel Energy Center over a Wild team that is winless in seven games.

Add to that insult an injury to defenseman Jared Spurgeon -- who was checked from behind into the boards by the Avalanche's Cody McLeod in the game's opening minutes -- and you can understand the edge with which the players and Yeo talked after it was over.

"We have to get out of it," said Cal Clutterbuck, whose second-period goal -- his 10th of the season -- gave the Wild a 2-1 lead. "We have to work twice as hard to win games as we did earlier in the year to get out of this."

It's no surprise the game was ragged given the break. And both teams were affected. But the Avalanche, which had gone winless in its previous nine road games, successfully battled through the choppy play.

The Wild? It couldn't muster offense when given significant power-play time early in the game. Late? Too many penalties prevented Minnesota from climbing back into the game after a series of turnovers had cost it both momentum and the lead.

Wild captain Mikko Koivu returned to the lineup after missing four games because of a leg injury. He won 14 of 22 faceoffs, had an assist and was a plus-1. But that wasn't enough. Afterward, Yeo said his team might be a little fragile right now.

"We passed the test earlier, with how we would do if we were having success," Yeo said. "Would we be able to come to the rink and not let that get to our head? ... Right now the other team scores and it's like, 'Whoa.' Whereas earlier in the year, we were able to deal with it."

The two teams traded power-play goals in the first period. The Wild took a 2-1 lead at 12:00 of the second period when a Dany Heatley forecheck behind the Colorado net created a turnover. Koivu got the puck to Clutterbuck, who scored.

That lead held up until 62 seconds remained in the period, when defenseman Mike Lundin's giveaway behind the Wild net led to rookie Gabriel Landeskog's momentum-turning goal that tied the score 2-2.

Whoa.

In the third period, turnovers led to both Colorado goals. The Wild gave the puck away 10 times Monday. The result? The Wild became the first team since Colorado in 1999 to win seven consecutive and then go winless in seven straight.

How quickly things change.

"We lost seven in a row," Yeo said. "You know what? That's fine. It stinks, but let's go. Let's draw the line in the sand. Let's get back on the horse. That's what we have to do right now."

Silver lining? This is happening early enough for the Wild to do something about it.

"If it happened late in the year, we'd be in deep trouble," Yeo said. "So we need to learn to get through this, and we need to do it together. And when we do that it will make us stronger. We'll be better for it."

  • related content

  • Yeo takes exception to hits on Spurgeon

    Tuesday December 27, 2011

    Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon had to be helped off the ice after being checked from behind into the boards by Colorado left winger Cody McLeod.

  • Game recap: Colorado 4, Wild 2

    Tuesday December 27, 2011

    1. Jan Hejda, Avalanche: Defenseman had two points. He scored the eventual game-winner, then assisted on Colorado's final goal.

  • Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog (92) shot the puck between the post and the skate of Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom to score as defenseman Mike Lundin tried to defend.

  • COLORADO 4, WILD 2

    Up next: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Nashville • FSN (100.3-FM)

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