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Avs extend Wild's losing streak to seven

by Dan Myers
ST. PAUL, Minn. - There is no such thing as style points in hockey. And while it wasn't pretty at times Monday night at Xcel Energy Center, the final result was beautiful for Colorado in a 4-2 win against Northwest Division-leading Minnesota.

The victory snapped a lengthy road losing streak for the Avs, who began the season 6-0 on the road before dropping their past nine games away from the Pepsi Center entering play Monday. After winning their last four games before the Christmas break, all in Denver, the win also extended Colorado's overall winning streak to five games.

The loss extended Minnesota's losing streak to seven.

Because of the NHL's embargo on holiday travel, the Avalanche began the day in Denver, and didn't arrive in the Twin Cities until early afternoon. By the time they arrived at the arena, Colorado had just a couple of hours to get ready for its first game in three days.

"We might want to try it more often," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said, joking.

Avs defenseman Jan Hejda said his typical game-day routine took a hit. In fact, he said he didn't even have time to have a routine. But it was his game-winner with a little less than 10 minutes to play in the game that was the difference in the game.

On the winner, Ryan O'Reilly fed a nifty pass from the right half wall to a charging Hejda in the slot. He one-timed the pass past Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom to give the Avs a 3-2 lead.

"I felt the hole there and I felt he could make a nice pass," Hejda said. "So I just tried to sneak in. I'm just happy I didn't miss the net."

With the multiple-day layoff, both teams seemed a bit off their game at times. The Wild put just 13 shots on goal through two periods and were clearly taken out of their game at times by Colorado.

Even the return of captain Mikko Koivu, who missed the past five games with a lower-body injury, wasn't enough to turn things in their favor. He assisted on Minnesota's second goal, which gave the Wild a 2-1 lead in the second period.

But the Avalanche capitalized on a Mike Lundin turnover behind his own net, as David Van Der Gulik tapped the puck to Gabriel Landeskog, who wrapped around an easy backhander to knot the game at 2-2  late in the second.

"Down one or two goals, we believe we can win a game," Hejda said. "That wasn't the case earlier in the season."

T.J. Galiardi scored less than three minutes after Hejda in the third to provide the Avs with an insurance goal. Hejda was credited with the lone assist on the goal.

"All-in-all, it was a big two points for us," Sacco said. "Especially on the road. Now we can get that monkey off our back."

Just 5:22 into the game, both teams were forced to shuffle their line-ups for completely different reasons.

Minnesota's Jared Spurgeon was lost for the rest of the game when he was checked from behind into the end boards by Avs winger Cody McLeod, who was given a major and game misconduct while Spurgeon was seen in the tunnel on a stretcher with what appeared to be a leg injury.

"I didn't like the hit one bit," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "On top of that, to me, it seemed like something they were targeting. They hit him from behind two shifts before that and I thought that one could have been called too."

While calling the play a "bad break," Sacco said his team fed off the opportunity to play short-handed so early in the game.

"I think it helped us change the momentum a bit there," Sacco said.

The Wild scored late in that power play on a goal by Pierre-Marc Bouchard for the period's only goal.

The Avs tied the game at 1-1 midway through the second period on a power-play tally of their own, as O'Reilly tapped home a sweet point pass from Matt Duchene.

O'Reilly, Galiardi and David Van Der Gulik all had two-point nights for the Avalanche. Dany Heatley had a pair of assists for the Wild.

Colorado out-shot Minnesota 32-22 on the night as Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov made 20 saves to earn his 11th victory of the season.

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