ST. PAUL, Minn. - Antti Miettinen made up for an accident in practice the day before - and saved Minnesota from a night of mistakes in the process.
Miettinen's one-timer with 1:11 remaining, off a feed from former Colorado forward Andrew Brunette, gave the Wild a 3-2 win over the fading Avalanche on Wednesday night. "You've got to be lucky," coach Jacques Lemaire said, "because it's not the proper way to win games."
Minutes after Cal Clutterbuck's goal was waved off when a video review ruled he kicked the puck in, Miettinen flicked the winner past Andrew Raycroft to hand the Avs their fifth straight loss on the road. On Tuesday, Miettinen inadvertently flattened Lemaire after a chase for the puck got too close to the coach. Lemaire had X-rays on his left arm, though there was no break - only a rough night of sleep.
More importantly, however, Miettinen - who established a career high with 35 points this season - swept away some sloppy play by his teammates and helped grab a critical two points against a division opponent.
"It was huge. We were pretty focused tonight," Miettinen said. "I don't think we were quite at the top of our game, offensively ... but we still hung in there."
Ryan Smyth scored twice for Colorado, once on a power play to tie it earlier in the third period, but the earlier goals by Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Owen Nolan gave the Wild what they needed in the end.
"It's not about individual games. It's about a team effort and finding ways to mentally overcome a difficult situation that we're in right now," Smyth said, adding: "We've got to find a way, and we're finding ways to lose. We've got to find ways to win."
Bouchard has five goals and 13 assists over the last 18 games, over which Minnesota is 11-6-1. Nolan also notched an assist in this offensive-deficient contest, with just 48 shots on net registered between both teams.
"You can't afford to go on any slide," said Nolan, whose 13th goal gave the Wild a 2-1 lead midway through the second. "Even losing a couple of games, you drop spots in the standings, so we're just trying to play consistent hockey right now and keep moving up."
The Avalanche are doing just the opposite.
Missing a slew of injured stars, they badly needed a win like this to revive their confidence and retain some hope of making a push for the playoffs in the crowd of contenders in the West. Even with the conference's second-worst record when the day began, Colorado was a mere six points behind Minnesota for the final spot despite a dismal 3-0 defeat to Columbus the night before.
"Persevere," coach Tony Granato said, when asked what his team can do to escape this funk. "Stay with it and come up with the effort like this tonight. If we can do that, and that's all we can ask of them, we can live with the results."
Minnesota enforcer Derek Boogaard - who earlier bowled over Colorado agitator Darcy Tucker with his forearm and stood over him in brief triumph - drew consecutive penalties for hooking and cross checking after letting Tucker rile him up in the third. The Avs took advantage of the extra skater and tied it on Smyth's second score, upsetting Lemaire.
This game was ugly, and not just because of all the wide shots and wasted scoring chances.
Backstrom clipped Cody McLeod with his stick while he gloved a puck, forcing a stream of blood from McLeod's nose and drawing a 4-minute penalty. That wiped out a big chunk of extended power-play time, but Avalanche went 1-for-7 with the man advantage against the league's top penalty-killing team. Colorado's power play is next-to-last in the league in scoring efficiency on the road.
Smyth's first goal was all hustle, set up by a bizarre ricochet. Jordan Leopold's shot over the net banged against the glass and landed neatly in front of the net, and Smyth beat Kim Johnsson to the spot to punch in the rebound.
"It's been a rocky road there, you know, when you look at it. You look at how we win, we do win, but I'd love to be a little more solid in the way we play," Lemaire said.
Notes: Smyth, who raised his season total to 18 goals, second-most on the Avs, hadn't scored twice in a game since Oct. 20 at Los Angeles. ... The Wild are 30-3-1 in the last 34 games Bouchard has scored in. ... Raycroft is 0-6 in his last six starts. This was his first appearance in the last six games.