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Avalanche 4, Wild 2 @NHLdotcom

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Colorado Avalanche have never had a problem scoring.

Now that they're getting strong goaltending, look out.

Alex Tanguay scored twice and David Aebischer had 33 saves to lead the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.

``The last two games I've played better, the way I know I can,'' said Aebischer, who had 32 saves in a shutout of Nashville on Tuesday. ``I've been struggling, but it's good to be back.''

Brett McLean added a goal and an assist and Marek Svatos broke the Avalanche record for goals by a rookie with his 21st of the season in Colorado's third straight win.

The Wild entered the night having won eight of their last 11 games to creep back into the Western Conference playoff race. The loss stung just a little bit more because the Wild had a chance to pull within one point of Colorado for eighth place, but instead fell five points back.

Daniel Tjarnqvist had a goal and an assist for the Wild, who uncharacteristically allowed three breakaways to make things tough for starting goalie Dwayne Roloson. Roloson gave up all four goals on just 14 shots.

``We never do that,'' bewildered Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. ``We never give up breakaways, then we give up two in a row.''

Roloson's counterpart, Aebischer, finally delivered the steady performance the Avalanche have been looking for.

Colorado started the night as the third-highest scoring team in the NHL, averaging 3.68 goals a game. But shaky goaltending from Aebischer and Peter Budaj have kept the Avalanche close to the Wild near the bottom of the competitive Northwest Division.

During their three-game winning streak, Aebischer and Budaj have combined for 95 saves and four goals allowed.

``I think we're playing more together,'' defenseman Patrice Brisebois said. ``It's fun to play a wide-open game, sometimes it's spectacular. But if you're not winning, it's not much fun. Both of our goalies are playing well.''

The Wild dominated the opening 18 minutes of the game, outhustling the Avalanche and outshooting them 12-2.

Aebischer was up to the task during that flurry and one more in the third as the Wild tried to mount a comeback.

Colorado made the most of its few opportunities.

Svatos slipped behind the defense and took a perfect pass from Brett Clark for a breakaway on a power play late in the first period. Svatos beat Roloson with a wicked wrist shot high on the glove side for a 1-0 lead with just over 2 minutes to go.

It was his 21st goal of the season, breaking Chris Drury's record for most goals in a season by an Avalanche rookie, which dates to 1995-96.

Tanguay gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead 30 seconds later when he deked defenseman Nick Schultz at the blue line and beat Roloson high on the stick side.

Tanguay added another goal early in the second and Brett McLean scored on a breakaway just after getting out of the penalty box for a 4-1 lead after two periods.

The Wild finally got on the board midway through the second on Tjarnqvist's power-play goal.

Fernandez replaced Roloson in net for the third period, but the Wild managed just one more goal - off a rebound by Todd White - and lost the opener of an important seven-game homestand.

Despite the four-point swing in the standings, Lemaire was upbeat after the game.

``I think we played much better than we did in Detroit,'' Lemaire said, even though the Wild beat the Red Wings 4-2 on Tuesday. ``What I'm looking at is the way we played, we didn't look as a team where you could say, 'Colorado's a lot better than the Wild.'''

After a slow start, the Avalanche appear to finally be putting things together. They have won three in a row for the first time since Nov. 25-29 and play 10 of their 13 games in January at home.

``In the position we're in, being so close to being out of the playoffs, we can't afford any breakdowns,'' Tanguay said. ``If we work every game like we're desperate, we're going to win our share of games.''

Notes: This was the third meeting in the last two weeks between the two teams. They split a home-and-home series before Christmas. ... The Avalanche played without LWs Brad May (knee), Frantisek Skladany and Steve Konowalchuk (wrist) and D Rob Blake. ... Rolston's assist extended his points streak to seven games. ... Wild RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard left in the first period after a nasty fall behind the net and did not return with a neck injury.

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