Snowed in: Wild falls, again, at home, this time to Avs
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- They both sat out with hip trouble, and still you have to think that Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore had the best nights among all the Minnesota Wild goalies under contract right now.
As the Wild scrambled to fill the injury-created holes in the lineup, the Colorado Avalanche found just enough holes in rookie goalie Anton Khudobin's game to keep the home team reeling on home ice.
On a team for which goaltending has never been a huge issue, it's suddenly among the biggest of many issues, as Wild goaltenders have shown the longevity of Spinal Tap drummers this season.
Khudobin, an emergency replacement with two (three, if you count Josh Harding) goalies on the shelf, played a solid game, stopping 14 shots, but a harmless-looking dump-in bounced past him to make the score 3-0 for the Avalanche in the second period, typifying the Wild night. Colorado eventually won 4-1.
"It's a tough situation," said Wild coach Todd Richards. "Everything that's going to be talked about is that third goal, and it's just unfortunate. A young guy comes in and wants to impress. You see that happen."
What you don't see happen much is the Wild out-shoot a team as thoroughly as it did on Friday, and still lose by three goals. At least one Wild player felt that something like karma may be at work, after the team beat the Devils on a goofy bounce last week on the road, and lost in part due to a goofy bounce this time.
"Things are going the other way for us right now. That's not Anton's fault. It was a weird bounce," said John Madden. "Look at the game in Jersey and the way we won the game. We played well and we get a bounce off the boards, off the glass, that went in the net. That's the way it goes. You can't control stuff like that."
They also can't control the injuries that have caused another round of flights between MSP and Houston. On Friday the Wild sent underperforming forward Patrick O'Sullivan to Texas after he'd gone unclaimed on the waiver wire, and called up goalie Matt Hackett (who backed up Khudobin) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon.
Another Wild defenseman, Marco Scandella, had to leave early after taking a puck to the ear in the third period. But his was far from the scariest injury of the night. Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly tripped in front of the Wild bench and went head first into the boards in the second period. He was taken from the ice on a stretcher after a lengthy delay, and sent to Regions Hospital as a precaution. According to a Colorado team official, O'Reilly was moving without trouble after the game and was expected to return to Denver with the team.
"I've had numerous situations where I've lost guys on the ice to stretchers and it's not a good feeling," said Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, who stopped all but one of the 33 Wild shots. "(O'Reilly) was moving and it sounds like he's OK. You've got to find a way to pick him up. It was our job and our duty to win the game for him."
For the Wild, the duty is just to win a game, any game, at home. And the chances to do so this month are all but gone. The team is now 10-11-2 at Xcel Energy Center with powerful Vancouver coming for a visit on Sunday. After that, the Wild is on the road until February. And the way things are going for the team lately on the ice and in the training room, that might be the best news in a while.
"A week ago you're on cloud nine, and feeling good about yourself. A week later it's reversed," Richards said. "But that's the game. That's hockey. That's being a team right now that's fighting for its life."