By Jeff Richardson – Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014
The start to what should be a very energetic and hard-hitting series began tonight in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche find themselves in the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. The city is ready, the fans are ready, and the young players who are making their playoffs debut have been ready for a long time. Boy oh boy was it a great game! The Avalanche managed, yet another comeback tonight with Paul Stastny game-tying, and game-winning goals! The Avalanche defeat the Wild 5-4 in overtime.
The first period was a time to really test the water. It took a while to get a shot on goal, but once things started to heat up, both Colorado and Minnesota went back and forth. The first goal was the result of a good forecheck. Jan Hejda found himself with the puck and sent it down low to Paul Stastny behind the net. Stazzer turned and found Gabriel Landeskog sneaking into the slot for a redirect past Ilya Brygalov. Minnesota quickly answered when Charlie Coyle was able to snag a rebound and beat Varlamov up high. Towards the end of the period we started to see the physicality of the game really pick up and tempers started to flare. Once the buzzer sounded, both teams found themselves tied and hungry for more.
What can I say? Bad period for Colorado. The Avalanche were playing too tight along the boards allowing Minnesota to post up and win battles. A Ryan Suter shot would deflect off of Nate Guenin to sneak past Varly. That was an unfortunate goal, but Ryan O’Reilly was able to fire a rocket past Brygalov to tie it back up shortly after. Erik Haula and Kyle Brodziak scored a couple goals to bury the Avalanche into a 4-2 hole.
I’ll be honest with everyone who’s reading this. I was beyond frustrated by the time the third period had started. Their inexperience was really starting to show. It seemed as if every time I blinked, the Avs were turning the puck over. Eventually, Jamie McGinn chipped in a puck that was initially fired by O’Reilly, just inside the left post. With just over three minutes left in the game, Coach Roy pulled Semyon Varlamov. It has worked plenty of times already this year, so you have to expect some success. Cue in Mr. Paul Stastny as he was able to score from a wicked angle with only 13.4 seconds remaining in regulation. Here we go into overtime, where this team’s success seems to lie. The unsung hero of all this? Erik Johnson. He saved a goal on an empty net shot by Minnesota, giving the team that very crucial chance.
Overtime was a lot more energetic. Both teams were chipping the puck in deep, and forechecking very well. Jason Pominville had a great chance, but sent the puck off the post. The Avalanche managed to sustain some pressure in Minnesota’s zone, and swung the puck over to a very clutch Tyson Barrie. Barrie made a nifty move and dumped it off to Nathan MacKinnon who found Stastny waiting in front of Bryzgalov. Just like that, the game was over, and the Pepsi Center was going absolutely crazy.
Now that these young kids have a slight taste for the playoffs, maybe they can focus more on controlling the flow of play rather than trying to force one. I’m sure a lot of adjustments will be made, and I’m confident to see a hungrier Avalanche team in Game 2.