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Wild stays close but falls short to Avalanche

By Sarah McLellan
Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS

DENVER - The Wild had no problem erasing two-goal deficits against other opponents but making up that much ground apparently isn't as easy when it's the Avalanche out in front.

After getting within a goal of Colorado, the Wild couldn't complete the comeback and came up short 2-1 Tuesday night at Ball Arena to drop to 1-2 in the four-game series that wraps up Thursday.

Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer was almost airtight, stopping 27 shots after a 19-save effort in Round 1 last Saturday when Colorado clobbered the Wild 5-1.

Since then, every game has been competitive and the Wild even had the Avalanche on its heels for stretches in this latest clash. But the team couldn't close the gap.

Colorado went up by a goal after Logan O'Connor banked a puck off Wild goalie Cam Talbot and into the net 17 minutes, 45 second into the first. The Avalanche doubled that lead at 7:09 of the second when Valeri Nichushkin buried a rebound off a Joonas Donskoi shot.

The turning point for the Wild came later that period after taxi squad call-up Kyle Rau crunched Colorado's Cale Makar into the boards and was immediately challenged to a fight by J.T. Compher. Both players received fighting majors, but Compher received an extra two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct for initiating the bout.

And on the ensuing power play, the Wild capitalized for just the third time this season – a one-timer by rookie Kirill Kaprizov at 13:05. Overall, the unit finished 1-for-3 and the Avalanche went 0-for-3.