Road losing streak finally ends as Wild get a win at Colorado
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Carson McMillan's game-winner for the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday didn't come in a shootout. It just seemed that way. McMillan's first goal of the season came on a 2-on-0 break in the third period, as the Wild forward made a deceptive move, then tucked the puck under Colorado Avalanche goalie J-S Giguere, breaking a 2-2 tie.
Minnesota's 3-2 win was the first by the Wild on the road in more than a month, snapping an 11-game winless streak away from Xcel Energy Center. More importantly, the two points moved the Wild back into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference heading into the All-Star break.
In the depths of the Wild's more than month-long funk, coach Mike Yeo took some solace in th3e fact that the troubles were coming in December, not March. Long-time followers of this team will recall a promising season coming off the rails in March a year ago, and the Wild falling quickly out of the playoff race.
But if you can get the doldrums over with, remain in the playoff picture, and play solid hockey after the mid-winter break, a playoff berth is within reach. With that in mind, the Tuesday night win in Denver contained multiple reasons for optimism for the Wild. Not only was it their second in a row, and their first road win since we were counting the shopping days until Christmas, it came via two new and unlikely sources of goals.
McMillan's game-winner was his first of the season, and Justin Falk's first period power play goal was the first of his career.
And after looking less than sharp early, Niklas Backstrom settled down to make 24 saves - 15 of them in a frantic third period as the Avalanche tried desperately to tie the game.
As it seems they always do, the Wild gave up the first goal of the game, when Colorado's T.J. Galiardi slipped a relatively weak backhander past Niklas Backstrom. The Wild goalie looked shaky early, but Colorado failed to take advantage, mustering just four shots in the opening period. Instead, the Wild bounced back with a pair of first period goals on 13 shots, not letting the opportunity slip away.
• 12/10/11: The Wild's last road win, on a warm Saturday night in Arizona.
• 2: Consecutive games with a goal by Dany Heatley.
• 48: Points recorded by Milan Hejduk in 61 career games versus the Wild.
• 2: Consecutive games with a power play goal by the Wild, a first in more than a month.
No new injures reported from the Wild, heading into a much-needed week of rest.
Avalanche - Chuck Kobasew 7 (Winnik, McClement), 4:46
Wild - Carson McMillan 1 (Brodziak), 7:44
Shots: Wild 13-9-12-34; Avalanche 4-7-15-26. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (24-26), Avalanche, J-S Giguere (31-34) Power plays: Wild 1-for-4, Avalanche 0-2.
1. Carson McMillan
2. Kyle Brodziak
3. J-S Giguere
This feels like the right time for a break, right? The Wild, save for Nick Johnson, will be off for the next six days while the NHL's All-Star Weekend happens in Ottawa. With Mikko Koivu hurt, the only representative from the team in Ottawa will be Johnson, who will participate in the rookie skills competition. The Wild's next game is Tuesday, Jan. 31, at home versus Nashville.