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Second-period struggle haunts Wild in loss to Avalanche

Minnesota's home winning streak snapped at 11 games Monday night in St. Paul

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

ST. PAUL -- Ryan Hartman called it "a brain fart."

Whatever one wants to label it, however, it wasn't good for the Wild in a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night at Xcel Energy Center.

'It,' in this case was the Wild's second period, one where it surrendered four goals on 20 shots and coughed up what was a pretty solid start against one of the NHL's top teams. 

"After the second period, we all came in and we all knew what we had to do. That was our game plan in the first period, to play them hard," Hartman said. "And we didn't play them hard in the second period. We made it easy on them and we kinda kicked ourselves after the second, talked about how to play them and guys pushed back and we made it a lot harder for them in the third period."

Video: COL@MIN: Hartman one-times rebound to open scoring

Hartman got the Wild on the board first on Monday, scoring at 8:40 of the opening period and capping an almost perfect first nine minutes for Minnesota, playing in front of a crowd of 3,000 home fans for the first time this season. 

It ended the first leading 11-6 in shots and had done a nice job of making life difficult for the Avs' top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

That all changed just 18 seconds into the second, when defenseman Samuel Girard fed the speedy MacKinnon for a quick open break. Colorado's leading scorer rifled a shot past Cam Talbot to tie the game. 

Things unraveled quickly from there.

Video: Dean Evason postgame vs Colorado

"We miss an assignment first shift of the [second]. MacKinnon flies down, which he can do. Scored a goal. All of a sudden, we're like, 'Oh, geez. He's really fast,'" said Wild coach Dean Evason. "Well, he wasn't that first in the first period and/or the third. We made a mistake and then we really got back on our heels. We didn't play the aggressive game, the push the pace, in their face game and they took advantage of it in the second period."

Andre Burakovsky scored off a rebound 71 seconds after MacKinnon to give Colorado a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Brandon Saad got away with a vicious crosscheck to the back of Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon a moment before making it 3-1 at 15:48, then J.T. Compher tipped a Cale Makar shot past Talbot at 17:52.

When it was all said and done, the Wild found itself down by three goals at the second intermission.

Video: Players Postgame vs Colorado 

The frustrating part, Hartman said, was walking back to the dressing room, Minnesota knew most of the damage in the second was self-inflicted.

"One hundred percent, us," Hartman said. "We know what we need to do and how we need to play to beat these guys over there. We just had a brain fart and thought we were something else in the second period and we weren't doing what we needed to do to beat that team. There's a certain way to play. We didn't do that."

To its credit, the Wild refused to go quietly into the night.

Video: COL@MIN: Bjugstad scores in 3rd period

Former Blaine Bengal Nick Bjugstad scored 3:35 into the third to make it a two-goal game again. And even after Mikko Rantanan capitalized on the power play at 7:22, the Wild clawed back to 5-4 on power-play goals by Marcus Johansson at 9:44 and by Kevin Fiala with 35 seconds remaining.

Johansson nearly tied it in the final seconds too, watching his redirection try squirt just wide of the Colorado cage. 

Video: COL@MIN: Johansson banks puck in for power-play goal

"I think we have shown we can play with them," said Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek. "We won here at home and I think our first period was good. Second [period] was not good at all. 

"But coming back, trying to fight back, I think we just ... we know how to play, we've gotta play them hard. I think they like when they get the game going back and forth, getting time. We just gotta get close to them and make them work."

Colorado, which has now taken at least one point in 15 consecutive games, extended its winning streak against the Wild to three games. 

Despite the loss, Minnesota hopes it gained a little momentum in the third period, nearly erasing a three-goal deficit against one of the best goaltenders and highest scoring teams in the NHL. 

Video: COL@MIN: Fiala scores PPG in 3rd period

"We did [rally]. And we can. But you don't want to. We shouldn't have had to," Evason said. "We should have played the same in the second period. And I say the first was good. We still weren't in their face enough frustrating them and putting pressure on them as much as we would like to or would have liked to in the first period. We played good but you can't get down against any team obviously two, three goals. It's very difficult to come back."

If anything, the final 20 minutes reinforced exactly how the Wild must play if it aims to stay in the race for the West Division crown down the stretch. 

"We competed our butts off in the third period, but it's not good enough. It's not good enough against a team like this," Evason said. "It has to be 60 minutes, can't be 20, can't be 40. It has to be 60 minutes."


Related:

Postgame Hat Trick: Avalanche 5, Wild 4

Video: MIN Recap: Hartman's efforts not enough in 5-4 loss

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