'Don't call it a crisis,' says Mike Yeo as Wild lose seventh in a row
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - Good things, and bad things, are coming in sets of seven for the Minnesota Wild. On Dec. 10 outside Phoenix, they won their seventh game in a row. On Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center, they lost their seventh game in a row.
Jan Hejda scored a goal and assisted on another in the third period as the Colorado Avalanche twice rallied for a 4-2 win over the Wild before the largest home crowd of the season.
The game featured one optimistic return, as captain Mikko Koivu played an impact role after missing the previous four games with a leg injury. It also featured a scary departure, as defenseman Jared Spurgeon had to be helped from the after he was hit hard from behind and into the boards by Colorado's Cody McLeod in the first period.
McLeod was ejected from the game for the hit.
Wild coach Mike Yeo says he team already passed one test earlier in the season, learning how to deal with success when, two weeks ago, they were the hottest team in hockey. Another test is upon them now, with the injuries and the losses piling up.
"We've lost seven in a row. That's fine," Yeo said. "It stinks, but let's go. Let's draw a line in the sand, let's get right back on the horse, let's get to the next one. We can't feel sorry for ourselves, we can't make excuses."
The most recent loss came on a night when it seemed, at least initially, like the stars were perfectly aligned for the Wild to get a much-needed win. The Avalanche had won four in a row, all at home, but they were a mess on the road, having gone 0-8-1 in their last nine games played at non-mile-high altitudes. Add to that the NHL's ban on practice or travel for the 48 hours of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and the Avs had flown to Minnesota early on Monday, and had skipped their pregame skate.
The Wild dominated for a while, taking 1-0 and 2-1 leads on nifty plays. But in the end, giving the visitors seven power plays, and a third period deflation, was too much to overcome.
"I don't even call it a crisis," Yeo said. "Luckily we're in a good spot right now, and we need this. We need it. Clearly we need it, because if it happened later in the year, we would be in deep trouble. We need to learn how to get through this...and when we do that we'll be better for it."
Koivu played 23 minutes and assisted on Clutterbuck's goal that gave the Wild a 2-1 lead in the second.
The hockey experts will tell you how devastating it can be to allow a goal in the final minute or so of a period, as players will spend the next 15 minutes fixated on the errors that led to the other team scoring. So when Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog slipped a backhander past Backstrom with 1:02 on the clock in the second period, we perhaps should have known there was trouble brewing. Landeskog's goal tied the game at 2-2, and from there on out it was all Avalanche.
"Before intermission like that was big and it gave us a chance to win in the third," said Landeskog. "Two-two on the road in the third is a pretty good spot to be in."
• 7: Times the Wild were shorthanded on Monday, tying a season-high.
• 19,290: Announced attendance on Monday, the largest crowd of the season.
• 4: Goals in the last five home games by Clutterbuck, who scored his 10th of the season.
• 9: Road games without a win by the Avalanche prior to Monday night.
Having already lost a whopping 136 man-games to injury, the Wild suffered another potential loss early on Monday, when Spurgeon went down. Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said he didn't see the hit, but said that McLeod always backchecks hard. Yeo, not surprisingly, had a different take on the play, claiming that the Avalanche were targeting Spurgeon.
"I didn't like the hit one bit," Yeo said. "On top of that, to me I felt like...it was something that looked like they were targeting him. They hit him from behind two shifts before that. That one could've been called too. That one was dangerous...That one was ugly."
Wild - Pierre-Marc Bouchard 7 (Heatley, Brodziak), 9:31, PPG
Avalanche - Ryan O'Reilly 9 (Duchene), 10:34, PPG
Wild - Cal Clutterbuck 10 (Koivu, Heatley), 12:00
Avalanche - Gabriel Landeskog 7 (Van Der Gulik, Galiardi), 18:58
Avalanche - Jan Hejda 4 (O'Reilly, Van Der Gulik), 10:20
Avalanche - TJ Galiardi 6 (Hejda), 13:06
Shots: Wild 8-5-9-22; Avalanche 7-12-13-32. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (28-32); Avalanche, Seymon Varlamov (20-22). Power plays: Wild 1-for-6, Avalanche 1-7.
1. Gabriel Landeskog
2. Cal Clutterbuck
3. Ryan O'Reilly
The last Wild win was in Phoenix, so maybe a return to warmer climates will do them some good. Minnesota plays the first of back-to-back games on Wednesday, in Nashville before returning home to face the Oilers the next night.