Avs hit the wall, and his name is Devan Dub­nyk

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Jess My­ers

st. paul, minn.» The Avalanche was hit with a harsh bit of me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal re­al­ity Tues­day night: When you’re mired in a cold snap, you don’t go to Min­nesota in De­cem­ber hop­ing to warm up.

There was no mir­a­cle come­back this time, as the Avs fell be­hind in the first pe­riod and never re­cov­ered, los­ing 2-0 to the Wild de­spite a 31-save night from goalie Se­myon Var­lamov.

It was the fourth con­sec­u­tive loss for the Avs, who had ral­lied for a sur­pris­ing win at Min­nesota a month ago but fell to 2-9-0 in their last 11 games.

“I just felt we had a cou­ple of those guys on our power play that didn’t have great nights,” Avalanche coach Jared Bed­nar said af­ter his team went 0-for-5 with the man ad­van­tage. “They fought the puck a lit­tle bit, and when you’re fight­ing the puck against a team that comes at you on the penalty kill, like they’re fast, they close quickly on you, they don’t give you a bunch of time. Then when you’re fight­ing the puck a lit­tle bit, it just leads to turnovers. That was kind of the story of the power play for me tonight.”

Colorado had some flur­ries in the first two pe­ri­ods, but the Avs were stymied, as so many other NHL teams have been lately, by Wild goalie Devan Dub­nyk, who stopped all 18 shots he faced. Dub­nyk is lead­ing the league in the ma­jor sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gories and is a big rea­son the Wild is the hottest team in the Western Con­fer­ence, hav­ing won eight in a row.

It was the fifth shutout of the sea­son for Dub­nyk, who faced just three Colorado shots in the third pe­riod de­spite a trio of Avs power plays. The Avs pulled Var­lamov for an ex­tra at­tacker dur­ing a power play and had a brief 6-on-4 ad­van­tage, which was negated when Nathan MacKin­non was whis­tled for his first penalty of the sea­son.

Var­lamov, who had missed the pre­vi­ous three games with a lower body in­jury, an­swered any ques­tions about his po­ten­tial for rust just 95 sec­onds in, rob­bing Ja­son Pom­inville’s tap-in at-

tempt with a sprawl­ing glove save af­ter a cross-ice pass by Zach Parise.

“He’s been out for a few games and came back and was out­stand­ing,” Jarome Iginla said of Var­lamov. “That glove save in the first pe­riod where he sprawls out across the net, and a cou­ple oth­ers, and the penalty shot — he was great. Those re­ally st­ing when he plays that well and you don’t get any in front of him.”

Min­nesota got the game’s first power play, and first goal, when Char­lie Coyle’s close-range shot eluded Var­lamov on the glove side. It was Coyle’s team-lead­ing 11th goal of the sea­son.

Var­lamov’s glove came in handy again in the sec­ond when he thwarted Eric Staal’s penalty-shot at­tempt. Staal had been hooked from be­hind by Avs de­fender Pa­trick Wier­cioch af­ter split­ting the de­fense for a rush to the net. But Staal’s wrist shot was snared by the goalie to main­tain the one­goal deficit.

“I don’t want to blame it on any­body, es­pe­cially my de­fense, the way we played,” Var­lamov said. “We tried to play the best game we could. We’re still los­ing games, which is frus­trat­ing. To­day, the same thing. We had mo­men­tum in the sec­ond pe­riod when we were close to scor­ing a goal, but we didn’t score. We’ve lost four in a row. It’s em­bar­rass­ing.”

Wild cap­tain Mikko Koivu dou­bled the lead in the mid­dle pe­riod, tap­ping in a cross-crease feed from de­fense­man Matt Dumba, with Var­lamov pre­oc­cu­pied with cov­er­ing Dumba’s unim­peded rush to the net.

The Avs’ best chance to get back in the game came early in the third on a power play, but it took an ugly turn. Wier­cioch, car­ry­ing the puck over his own blue line, had a spec­tac­u­lar open-ice col­li­sion with team­mate Matt Duch­ene. Wier­cioch headed down the tun­nel and missed two shifts, but he re­turned and fin­ished the game.

“Yeah, that was aw­ful,” Duch­ene said of the power play, not the col­li­sion. “That was a big part of our third pe­riod pretty much fiz­zling out and not be­ing a good pe­riod for us. I don’t un­der­stand why we don’t have more killer in­stinct in terms of when we get in the zone, mak­ing sure we make the ex­tra ef­fort to get it set up when we have break­outs. We’re get­ting in the zone; we’re just not get­ting set up. That’s just pure us­ing our brain.”

Colorado has been blanked six times this sea­son.

Avalanche goalie Se­myon Var­lamov makes a div­ing save as the Min­nesota Wild’s Eric Staal jumps over him dur­ing the first pe­riod Tues­day night in St. Paul, Minn. Var­lamov had 31 saves in Colorado’s 2-0 loss. Jim Mone, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Avalanche cap­tain Gabriel Lan­deskog sends the Wild’s Ja­son Zucker to the ice with a check dur­ing the third pe­riod of Tues­day’s game in St. Paul, Minn. Zucker, who took ex­cep­tion to the hit, and Lan­deskog got into a scuf­fle. Both were sent to the penalty box. The Avs lost 2-0. Jim Mone, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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