By Jeff Richardson – Published on April, 30, 2014 at 11:43 PM
It was do or die for both Colorado and Minnesota tonight in Denver, Colorado. Minnesota had the momentum after winning at home the game before, but Colorado had the home ice advantage. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be enough as Minnesota beat Colorado 5-4 in overtime to meet the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the playoffs.
You would think the first period would of been taken with a more cautious approach by both teams. See who makes a mistake first. That wasn’t the case at all. The Avalanche were able to get on the board first, with a goal credited to Nick Holden. The Puck bounced around in front of the net for a while, Jamie McGinn fell forward into Darcy Kuemper, and while he appeared to interfere with the goaltender, the puck seemed to go off a Wild players stick. Pretty hard to tell, and could be argued as questionable. Toronto confirmed, however, it was a good goal. Minnesota went on the power play after a phantom tripping penalty, and gained some momentum from the Avs. Mikko Koivu fired a shot from near the boards, and beat Semyon Varlamov on a Paul Stastny screen. This took a lot out of the Avs for awhile. Sloppy passes in their own end, caused a lot of turnovers. Soon enough though, Joey Hishon came away with the puck and made a sweet assist to McGinn who was able to beat Kuemper for the 2-1 lead.
The second period started out fast. Both the Wild and the Avalanche were trying to get something going, but once a shot or two was taken, the play would shift the other way. Zach Parise really stood out to me in this period. He was playing like a man possessed. Using his speed to pressure the Avs’ defensemen in their own end on a power play. As a matter of fact, Minnesota’s penalty kill was very aggressive. The Avalanche hardly had any room to do anything. When they managed to set things up, the boys in burgundy and blue managed to set up a few scoring chances. The only goal of the period was scored by Dany Heatley as he found the puck sitting in front of Varly, and beat him just inside the post. The Avalanche and Wild prepare for the third period tied at 2 a piece.
The Avalanche had so many opportunities to put this game away in the third period, but couldn’t get the job done. Stastny put the Avs up by a goal, but then 5 minutes later, Nino Niedereiter knotted it up once again. The Avalanche just could not keep up in this game defensively. Bad decisions in their own end allowed the Wild to pressure them way to often. Varly can only do so much before the guys in front of him become tired. The negativity turned into a sprout of positivity when Erik Johnson went 5-hole on Kuemper. Beauty of a shot from the point. Right after that goal, Kuemper went off and was replaced by Ilya Bryzgalov. Seemed as if Kuemper was injured in some way. The Avs folded a bit, and weren’t able to get any sort of pressure on Bryz for the rest of the period. Jared Spurgeon gave the Wild a fighting chance, once again with a snipe past Varly. Into overtime, again.
Colorado’s defense was really bad right away. The Wild were able to get a few scoring chances right off the bat. The Avs forced the play into the other end, and were able to get a few themselves, but it would be an odd-man rush towards Varlamov that made hearts stop all over Colorado. Niederreiter was barreling in with another Wild teammate, but decided to shoot it himself. His decision paid off, and the Minnesota Wild defeated the Avalanche in overtime, 5-4.
When there is heartbreak and defeat, there is positivity underneath it all. The Avalanche were 29th in the NHL last season. This season, they managed to completely turn it around and won the Central Division. If that’s not impressive alone, I don’t know what is. This team broke records previously held by the 2001 Avalanche. Again, is that not impressive? That 2001 group was absolutely amazing. The kids in the burgundy and blue now have playoff experience. Not only do they come away with experience, but they have game 7 experience, and game 7 overtime experience. There’s a lot to take away from a situation like this. Let the emotions flow, but come back hungry for more next season.