Avs hit the wall, and his name is Devan Dubnyk
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