In keeping with the playoff trend in the Western Conference, the
Wild dominated at home Thursday, beating the Avalanche 2-1 to even
their first-round playoff series 2-2.
Western Conference teams, playing at home, were 13-1 entering
Thursday night's games. The Wild made that number 14-1 on the
strength of goals by defenseman Jared Spurgeon and center Charlie
Coyle, along with 11 saves by goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Despite the
domination in shots by the Wild, it was a nail-biter right to the
"When the game's on the line, you have to execute or you have to
make a play or you have to defend, whatever the situation calls for,
and you have to do it when the stakes are that high, those are
growing moments for your team, and that's what we have to look at,"
said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We kind of saw a lot of that late in the
season to help us get ready for the playoffs and obviously it's a
new level now and so they'll continue to go out and do that and
hopefully these are growing moments."
Colorado got a goal from center Ryan O'Reilly, and goalie Semyon
Varlamov had 30 saves to keep the game close, but the Avalanche
offense struggled, generating just a dozen shots on goal. Despite
getting dominated in two games in Minnesota, Avalanche coach Patrick
Roy took some solace in keeping both games close.
"Think about it, one power play and we could've won game three, and
tonight one power play and we might still be on the ice," Roy said.
"When you have the type of performance we had from our goaltender,
there's no reason for us not to believe in ourselves, coming back
The Wild, who thoroughly dominated Game 3 on Monday, out-shooting
the Avalanche 46-22 and winning 1-0 in overtime, started Thursday's
game like they had not missed a beat. They recorded the game's first
seven shots on goal, whipping the already-enthusiastic audience into
a frenzy, and got the only goal of the first period.
Wild left winger Zach Parise kicked a puck back to Spurgeon, who was
on the blue line. Spurgeon launched a shot on net that sailed just
inside the post for a 1-0 Minnesota lead and the defenseman's first
career playoff goal.
Past the midway point of the game, Coyle gave the Wild a 2-0 lead on
a power play. A point-blank shot by right winger Jason Pominville
deflected over the net and hit a stanchion above the end boards,
then landed at the side of the net. Coyle was there to sweep the
puck past Varlamov before the goalie could get back in position.
"It's crazy how momentum shifts in a series like this," Coyle said
after the game. "We go down 0-2 in the first two games, and now
we're tied 2-2 and things are looking bright. But we just need to
stay on that kind of even keel there. We can't get too high. It's
gonna be a new game in a couple days, and we've just got to approach
it the same way we have the last two."
[to top of second column]
The Avalanche answered just
30 seconds after Coyle's goal, when O'Reilly's long-range shot from
the top of the right circle fooled Kuemper, pulling the Avalanche
back within a goal on just their seventh shot of the game.
They needed more than 14 minutes to get another shot, as Minnesota
continued to frustrate the Colorado offense and their special teams.
The Avalanche power play, which was one of the NHL's most effective
during the regular season, was 0-for-4 on Thursday and is now
1-for-15 in the series.
"We've been a good road team all year and for some reason we just
haven't played our best," said Avalanche center Paul Stastny. "It's
execution. Sometimes you've got to simplify and get the puck to the
net. Even if it's from the goal line or a bad angle, maybe a rebound
will do something to open it up."
The 12 shots by the Avalanche tied a franchise low for a playoff
game. The previous low of 12 was set on June 2, 2001, in a Stanley
Cup Finals loss to the New Jersey Devils.
NOTES: Wild LW Matt Cooke, who was suspended by the NHL for seven
games on Wednesday for his knee-on-knee collision with Avalanche D
Tyson Barrie, read a statement to the media prior to Thursday's
game. "It was not my intent to collide with him knee on knee. I
think it was my intent to finish my check. Playoffs are a hard,
physical time, and it's my job to be physical," Cooke said. It is
the sixth time he has been suspended by the league. ... Colorado
rookie C Joey Hishon made his NHL debut in Thursday's game, after
being called up from their Lake Erie minor league team. He had 10
goals and 24 points in 50 AHL games this season. ... Wild LW Zach
Parise assisted on Minnesota's first-period goal, extending his
career-best playoff streak of consecutive games with an assist to
four. ... Game 5 in the series will be Saturday night in Denver.
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.