Wild Stifle Avalanche Again To Even Series With A Thrilling 2-1 Victory
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Charlie Coyle scored his third goal of the series for Minnesota, and the Wild dominated the Colorado Avalanche for the second straight game on their way to a 2-1 win Thursday night that evened the first-round matchup at two apiece.
The Wild outshot the Avalanche a stunning 32-12, establishing a franchise record for fewest allowed by Minnesota. Colorado has been outshot 78-34 in the last two games, with Ryan O'Reilly getting the only goal.
Jared Spurgeon used a slap shot to get a puck past Colorado's Semyon Varlamov just 3:47 into the game, much quicker than the 65:08 the Wild needed to score the last time. Game 5 will be in Denver on Saturday night.
Coyle was in perfect position to backhand in a lucky bounce of the ricochet of Jason Pominville's rocket off the glass behind the net, giving the Wild a two-goal lead with 7:05 left in the second period.
Just 30 seconds later, O'Reilly gave the Avalanche their first goal against Wild rookie Darcy Kuemper in the series after 42 shots and more than 124 minutes without one, a long-range shot from the top of the circle without any traffic in front that cut the lead to 2-1.
But that was all they could scrap together on another off night by the high-scoring, fast-skating stars that highlighted victories in Games 1 and 2.
The Avalanche did a better job of clogging shooting and passing lanes to slow the Wild's attack in the third period, and coach Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov with 2:39 left to get the extra skater. Then 25 seconds later, Jonas Brodin was called for hooking, giving the Avalanche a 6-on-4 situation. Mikael Granlund lost his stick at one point, but still managed to block a shot without it.
The Avalanche failed to score on all four power plays and fell to 1 for 15 in the series.
Roy's daring removal of Varlamov with 3:01 remaining worked in Game 1, when Stastny tied the game with 13 seconds left and won it in overtime. But the Wild had all kinds of trouble clearing the puck that night. This time, the defense was more sound.
The fourth game of these best-of-seven playoff series is many times the most pivotal. After the hubbub over Matt Cooke's knee-to-knee takeout of Tyson Barrie on Monday night, the way each team responded in this game was going to be telling. Cooke knocked the Avalanche defenseman out for more than a month with a medial collateral ligament injury, and in turn he received a seven-game suspension from the NHL.
The Wild moved Nino Niederreiter into Cooke's left wing spot on the third line that has matched up often with Avalanche stars Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabe Landeskog. Cooke made his presence obvious in Game 3 by ramming into as many guys as he could reach, helping the Wild establish command of the pace and flow.
They might not have initiated as much contact as they did two nights earlier, but their energy didn't drop off one bit.
The Wild played about as strong of a puck-possession game as they could, zipping crisp, purposeful passes all across the ice and again keeping the play in the Avalanche zone for the majority of the night and raising the level of the crowd noise along with that.
The Wild announced a franchise playoff attendance record of 19,396.
The Avalanche, angered by Cooke's act, played more physically than in the last game. Patrick Bordeleau played a primary role in that, and Granlund was a frequent target of the rough stuff. Stastny gave Granlund, whose diving goal in overtime gave the Wild the Game 3 win, a shove into the net during a second-period scrum and drew a cross-checking penalty.
While the Avalanche might have increased their intensity, the quality of their play worsened from an already-shaky Game 3. The Wild's defense had a lot to do with that, particularly on those power plays, but the Avalanche showed little semblance of an attack and fumbled with the puck often.
MacKinnon left for the locker room briefly in the second period, but returned soon after.
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