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Updated: December 23rd, 2010 11:11pm
Holiday Cheer: Wild wins 3-1 in Colorado

Holiday Cheer: Wild wins 3-1 in Colorado

by Jess Myers
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Who says the holidays need to be stressful?

All the Minnesota Wild needed to ensure some holiday cheer on Thursday was a pair of goals from Matt Cullen en route to a 3-1 win while visiting the Colorado Avalanche. And just like that, this team that was reeling a week ago has now produced a three-game winning streak and moved to within four points of the final playoff position in the Western Conference.

Appropriately, on a day when former Wild coach Jacques Lemaire worked his way back behind a NHL bench (in New Jersey, where he replaced the fired John MacLean on an interim basis) the Wild did it with stingy defense in Denver. Most notable in that effort was goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 36 shots for his third consecutive win.

While Colorado's high altitude notoriously presents problems for some visitors, the Wild are loving trips to Denver recently. An ugly loss where the Wild allowed seven goals there earlier this season notwithstanding, the Wild is now 7-1-2 in its last 10 games at the foot of the Rockies.

Cullen opened the scoring, depositing a loose puck after Cal Clutterbuck made a shorthanded rush to the Avalanche net. After Colorado tied it on a power play, Cullen scored again before the first period was over, giving the Wild all the goals it would eventually need.

When Colorado goon David Koci got in Wild faces and tried to start some static early in the second period, he was sent to the penalty box for roughing. Less than 30 seconds later, Andrew Brunette scored a power play goal for the Wild (with an assist from Cullen) to punish his former team. After the game, Wild coach Todd Richards noted that Koci was not seen on the ice again with his team trailing by two goals.

Brunette's goal was enough to chase Avalanche starter Craig Anderson from the net, he finished with just 11 saves on 14 shots and was replaced by Peter Budaj.

The Wild have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, then will host the West-leading Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.

Jess Myers covers the Wild and college hockey for He is a member of the editorial advisory board for USA Hockey Magazine.
Email Jess | @JessRMyers