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Wild beat Avs, gain division lead

by Adam Schwartz / NHL.com
The Minnesota Wild reclaimed the top spot in the Northwest Division with a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche
Hello again, first place.

The Minnesota Wild are back atop the Northwest Division following a 4-1 victory Sunday night over the Colorado Avalanche at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota.

With the victory, the Wild (11-7-2) earned a one-point lead over the Avalanche (11-7-1), who have been outscored 10-2 in their last two games after going 7-1-1 over a nine-game span.

Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville thought his team played better than in their 6-1 loss to Dallas on Friday night. Nonetheless, the results were nowhere to be found.

“We had a lot of puck possession time but the finish wasn’t there but the execution was better,” Quenneville said. “We have to play with more urgency, more puck control. We have to come up with more loose pucks. They came up with more loose pucks, and that’s the difference between winning and losing.”

At 15:42 of the first period, Minnesota fourth-liner Aaron Voros – playing in just his fifth NHL game – scored his second goal of the season as he banged linemate Matt Foy’s rebound past Colorado goalie Peter Budaj. Wild coach Jacques Lemaire was happy to see the fourth line get rewarded with a goal. ( 700K )

''It's good to see them get goals and win the game for us, too,'' Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. ''They're guys who come in every night and work as hard as they can work, and a lot of times they don't have success.''
           
Minnesota extended its lead at 3:32 of the second period, when Foy skated down the right-wing boards and took what appeared to be a harmless wrist shot from the far hash mark of the circle that eluded Budaj. The 24-year-old is excited about the chemistry his line – which also features Voros and James Sheppard – has displayed, not to mention the energy it has provided the Wild with. ( 700K )
       
''We're just three young guys out there crashing and banging and trying to put pucks in the net,'' Foy said. ''Aaron provides some size and Sheppard provides the skills and the smarts on the line. All three of us just clicked well.''
       
After Colorado forward Tyler Arnason was stopped on a breakaway by Wild goaltender Josh Harding, Minnesota came right back as defenseman Martin Skoula fed forward Stephane Veilleux, who ripped a slap shot past Budaj to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead at 15:15 of the second period. ( 700K )
       
The Avalanche scored their first goal of the contest when Wojtek Wolski fought for a loose puck behind the Minnesota net and sent it out in front for Milan Hejduk, who beat Harding through the legs to make it 3-1. ( 700K )
   
''The last two games, from our side, are probably the worst two games of the year. I don't have an explanation for it,'' Hejduk said.
          
The Wild regained the three-goal lead when defenseman Brent Burns took a pretty backhand pass from Minnesota forward Brian Rolston, and his snap shot beat Budaj at 17:16 of the second period. ( 700K )

“Jacques doesn’t like it when defensemen gamble too much,” Burns said of his coach.  “But Jacques gives you freedom when you have the chance.”
       
In the third period, the Avalanche had two power play opportunities to get back into the game, but they could not convert on either Dominic Moore’s hooking penalty at 4:38 or Kurtis Foster’s interference infraction with 10:20 left.
        
The Wild came into the game without forward Mikko Koivu, the team’s second-leading scorer. Pavol Demitra missed his fifth straight contest and seventh in nine due to a groin injury. In the end, though, Minnesota used a team-wide effort to overcome both the injuries and Friday’s 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

''You definitely need more depth when you're missing guys like that, so you're going to have to have a whole team effort, which I think we had,'' Voros said.
           
Harding was pulled in the first period of Friday’s contest at GM Place after giving up three goals on 11 shots, but was handed the start by Lemaire on Sunday.

“I was very surprised to get the start after being pulled on Friday night,” Harding said.

Material from wire services was used in this report.
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