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Associated Press, Published December 24 2010

Moorhead's Cullen has three-point game as Wild defeat Avalanche

DENVER – Matt Cullen had two goals and an assist, Niklas Backstrom stopped 36 shots and the Minnesota Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on Thursday night.

Andrew Brunette also scored and Marek Zidlicky and Antti Miettinen had assists for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

David Jones scored for the Avalanche and Peter Budaj had 18 saves in relief of Craig Anderson. Colorado has lost two in a row after winning six straight.

The Wild led 2-1 after the first period on a pair of goals by Cullen, his seventh and eighth. Cal Clutterbuck stole a soft pass at the Minnesota blueline, raced down the ice and his shot was saved by Anderson. Cullen trailed the play and knocked the rebound into the empty net with 10:27 left in period.

The Avalanche struck back 45 seconds later when Backstrom couldn’t cover up a shot by Brandon Yip and Jones chipped in the rebound for his 12th goal of the season and first in 11 games.

The Wild got the lead back when Zidlicky’s shot from the blue line bounced off the boards and by Anderson as he tried to grab the carom. Cullen knocked the puck out of the air to give Minnesota the lead.

Brunette made it 3-1 with a power-play goal when he tipped Cullen’s shot from off the boards past Anderson, for his seventh of the season. Anderson was pulled in favor of backup Budaj after making 11 saves.

The Avalanche had several chances to score in the third period but Backstrom came up with big saves throughout the frame. He finished with 15 saves in the third, his busiest period of the game.

NOTES: Cullen notched his first three-point game of the season. ... The Avalanche are 2-5-1 against the Northwest Division and 17-7-3 against the rest of the NHL. ... Minnesota has scored at least one power-play goal in 15 of its past 18 games against Colorado.

Minnesota 2 1 0 – 3

Colorado 1 0 0 – 1

First period: 1, Minnesota, Cullen 7 (Clutterbuck), 9:23 (sh). 2, Colorado, Jones 12 (Yip, Hunwick), 10:08 (pp). 3, Minnesota, Cullen 8 (Zidlicky), 16:04.

Second period: 4, Minnesota, Brunette 7 (Cullen, Miettinen), 2:46 (pp).

Shots on Goal – Minnesota 11-13-8 – 32. Colorado 8-14-15 – 37.

Goalies: Minnesota, Backstrom 12-8-3 (37 shots-36 saves). Colorado, Anderson 10-6-2 (14-11), Budaj (2:46 second, 18-18).

A – 16,323 (18,007). T – 2:24.