ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Wild's four-game winning streak came to an end Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center, thanks to Ryan O'Reilly's brilliant backhander over Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
O'Reilly's goal -- his second of the game -- came moments after he took the puck away from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. O'Reilly worked a give-and-go with Matt Duchene to score, breaking a 2-2 tie and sucking the energy out of the announced crowd of 19,117 in what ultimately became a 4-2 Colorado victory.
It was the crucial blow in a back-and-forth game in which goals came in bunches. The Avalanche (28-12-5) scored twice in less than 41/2 minutes to take a 2-0 second-period lead, only to have Charlie Coyle score twice in 40 seconds to tie it. That set the stage for a third period in which both teams had chances before O'Reilly scored his 16th goal of the season.
The Wild (24-18-5) had followed a six-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak that included two hat tricks. It appeared Coyle's two goals -- both assisted by Dany Heatley -- might send the Wild to a season-best fifth consecutive victory, but Colorado had other ideas. The Wild will try to get back on the winning track Sunday in Nashville.
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped 24 of 26 shots to improve to 21-8-5; he is 8-0-5 in his past 13 decisions. Backstrom's personal three-game losing streak ended.
After a scoreless first period in which the two teams combined for just 10 shots, things changed in the second. Denver struck first. Marco Scandella's shot was blocked, bounced forward and triggered a three-on-two Avalanche break. Gabriel Landeskog broke out with Paul Stastny and Maxime Talbot. The puck went from Landeskog to Talbot into the Wild zone, across to Stastny and back to Landeskog in the slot, who beat an extended Backstrom with a backhand at 9:08.
And things got worse for the Wild. Stephane Veilleux went off for holding at 10:09, and Matt Cooke followed him for hooking at 11:21, giving Colorado 48 seconds of a five-on-three.
The Wild killed both penalties. But, moments after Cooke's penalty expired, O'Reilly got the puck from Andrew Benoit to Backstrom's left. O'Reilly's bad-angle shot went through Backstrom's pads for a 2-0 lead at 13:25.
Gut punch? Not so much.
Coyle and Heatley got things back quickly.
Less than a minute after Colorado's second goal, Coyle worked a give-and-go with Heatley, getting the puck back in the slot. He faked the backhand, then tucked a forehand between Varlamov's pads at 14:19. And then, 40 seconds later, Coyle came down the slot and one-timed Heatley's pass high stick side to tie the score 2-2.
In the exciting 20 minutes, Colorado scored on two of nine shots. The Wild, which went about 14 minutes without a shot in the period, got seven in the final six, scoring twice.
For the first part of the third period neither team had great chances.
But then they started coming: Jason Zucker's chance from the left circle, which went wide; Backstrom stopping Jamie McGinn, point-blank, midway through the period, and Varlamov doing the same to Cooke moments later.
Finally, O'Reilly broke through -- again.
The Wild, which outshot the Avalanche 27-18, had chances down the stretch, but it couldn't beat Varlamov again. Talbot scored into an empty net with 1:10 left.
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