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Postgame Hat Trick: Avalanche 2, Wild 0

Eriksson Ek, Tuch strong in continued bids for roster spots

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

Dan Myers gives three quick takeaways from the Wild's 2-0 preseason loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday at Pepsi Center in Denver:

1. After a slow start for both teams, the Wild came alive just past the midway point of the first period following a shift by the Jason Zucker-Joel Eriksson Ek-Chris Stewart line that pinned the Avalanche in their zone for nearly a minute.

The Wild fired five shots on goal during that shift, drew a penalty a couple minutes later and put five more shots on Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlamov before the end of the period. Minnesota wasn't able to get on the scoresheet in the opening 20 minutes, but held a 13-2 shots advantage after one.

Had the Wild been able to capitalize on just one of those power-play opportunities, the game may have turned out much differently.

"Every little play can change the game," said Wild forward Alex Tuch. "You say, 'Oh that little play, me driving the puck wide, if I lifted the puck on my backhand,' every little inch counts. But we do have to start capitalizing on our power play."

2. The second period was nondescript enough until the 9:18 mark when Jarome Iginla -- who else? -- helped break the scoring drought, wheeling a pass from the left corner to Chris Bigras all alone at the backdoor for a tap-in goal that Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper had no chance on.

Colorado smelled blood and roared back with another goal on the very next shift when Carl Soderberg buried a rebound chance from almost the identical spot as Bigras' goal moments earlier. After a lopsided shots total through 20 minutes, Colorado turned the tables in the second, owning a 13-7 advantage in the middle period.

"We played a really good first period but the second period, I think that's where we fell off the wagon a little bit," said Wild forward Nino Niederreiter. "They played better than they did in the first and we dropped our level a little bit. That's what cost us a couple of goals."

3. With roster spots still up for grabs, especially up front, Eriksson Ek and Tuch played strong games.

It continues a solid stretch of play for Eriksson Ek, who has seeminglymade the most of his preseason opportunities so far. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau has already said Eriksson Ek will play the preseason finale on Saturday when Minnesota is expected to dress a lineup that could closely mirror what it will look like in nine days on Opening Night in St. Louis.

"For the most part, Eriksson Ek is a pretty responsible guy," Boudreau said. "I don't know if [there will be final cuts before Saturday]. We gotta get together and I think that will happen [on Wednesday]."

Tuch said he was pleased with his performance, but ultimately disappointed with the final result.

"I thought I played strong but I'm more focused today on the team losing," Tuch said. "No one is really happy, even if you played well or played strong, nobody is happy in this locker room."

Loose pucks

• Kuemper finished with 13 saves in two periods before giving way to Alex Stalock at the start of the third, who made the final four saves. Boudreau indicated both goaltenders knew of the plan to get Stalock some work as a reward for how the South St. Paul native played last week in the preseason opener at Buffalo. Stalock has now stopped 43 of 44 shots he's faced in four periods of play.

• Varlamov stopped all 30 shots he faced to earn the shutout.

• Minnesota dropped to 2-3-0 in the preseason, with its final tuneup before the regular season begins slated for Saturday at Xcel Energy Center against the Winnipeg Jets. Colorado, which won at Minnesota a week ago, improved to 4-0-0. 

Dan's Three Stars

* Marco Scandella

** Alex Tuch

*** Joel Eriksson-Ek

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