The Minnesota Wild were buried by the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night in Game Two of their Stanley Cup Playoffs Divisional Series. The Avalanche now lead the series 2-0 as the action shifts to St. Paul Minnesota. Games Three and Four will be at the Xcel Energy Center Monday, April 21st and Thursday, April 24th.
In a game the Minnesota Wild couldn’t afford to lose, they did just that. Nathan MacKinnon stuck the knife in and twisted it Saturday night, as he scored the games first goal and added three assists on the second, third, and fourth Avalanche goals. The 18 year old ROOKIE MacKinnon now has seven points (a goal and six assists) in the first two Stanley Cup Playoff games of his NHL career. His linemate Paul Stastny had a goal and three assists, while his other linemate Gabriel Landeskog had two goals. That top line for the Avalanche had four goals and six assists Saturday night, accounting for all the goals and all but one assist. That’s correct, out of 11 total points, 10 went to the Avalanche’s top line and the Wild couldn’t do a darn thing to stop them. The other way of looking at it is the Minnesota Wild stopped 14 of the 18 skaters on Colorado’s team from scoring any points. Either way, the result’s the same. The Minnesota Wild lost their second game in a row and return to home ice down two games.
The Minnesota Wild actually struck first in this game. For the second straight game Charlie Coyle scored the Wild’s first goal of the night. This time, it was a tip in off a Mikko Koivu pass just 4:18 into the first period. Ryan Suter picked up the second assist on the play, his first helper of the series to go with his single goal from game one. His two points tie him with Coyle and Marco Scandella for second most in the series by a Minnesota Wild player. Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu lead the team with three points each, all assists for both players. We are headed into game three of this Stanley Cup Playoffs Divisional Series and Minnesota’s top 10 scorers in the regular season have a total of three goals. Charlie Coyle has a pair and Ryan Suter has one, the other three goals the Wild have scored have come from Scandella, Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula. Back to the top 10 scorers, only two have goals and only six have any points (assists), three are pointless, and one (Dany Heatley) has been a scratch both games. Those are not exactly the numbers you’d expect to see from the top-10 on the Minnesota Wild’s point leaders list in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo had this to say about the lack of scoring, “I don’t think we took advantage of some opportunities that we certainly could of….we had chances, we had good chances in this game. Giving up three makes it tougher on ourselves but it’s not like we gave up five tonight. So, we gotta find a way to score one more goal in that hockey game and certainly we had the chances and the opportunities to do it.” Yeo continued, “But that’s the playoffs and that’s kinda’ something we talked about after the second period and is the key. There’s gonna’ be momentum swings, but how quickly can you get it back, how do you get it back, how do you get back to your game and it’s certainly more of a challenge when you’re on the road.” Yeo said home ice may be the key, “Coming back home, I think we should get excited about that opportunity to play in front of OUR fans. Our building’s gonna be rockin’!! They (Colorado) did what they’re supposed to do as a good team and they took care of winning the first two. Now we’ve gotta go take care of our business!” The Minnesota Wild better take care of their business in games three and four or they’re going to be making tee-times by next weekend and Coach Mike Yeo could be looking for a new job.
After Charlie Coyle gave the Minnesota Wild an early lead, the Nathan MacKinnon show started just over two minutes later. The Avalanche rookie received a pass from Paul Stastny and raced up the ice into the Wild’s zone and made a move that just about broke Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon‘s ankles. Spurgeon got his feet crossed up and fell down as MacKinnon sped around him. Minnesota goalie Ilya Bryzgalov could only wave helplessly as MacKinnon put a wrist shot past him to tie the game at a goal apiece. That would be the extent of scoring for the opening frame.
The second period co-starred Gabriel Landeskog along with Paul Stastny joining the Super-Rookie. Landeskog basically put the game out of reach for the Wild with a pair of goals at the 2:58 and 11:59 marks of the period. The assists on both goals went to MacKinnon and Stastny. Once the second puck of the period sailed past Bryzgalov on just three shots, Coach Yeo gave him the hook and Darcy Keumper returned to the crease for the Minnesota Wild. Kuemper had just been cleared to play Saturday after suffering an upper body injury that had sidelined him for the last eight games. The Wild’s rookie netminder seemed fully ready to go in net, stopping all 14 shots he faced in the remaining 8:01 of the second period and 18:01 of the third before being pulled for an extra skater. Kuemper looked like the super-rookie goalie we all saw back in the regular season. He flashed the leather, catching a rocket of a Makinnon shot and used his long legs and huge wingspan to deny several other good scoring chances by the Colorado Avalanche in the last half of Saturday’s game.
Nobody could put the puck in the net in the third period despite 20 combined shots on goal, until Scandella scored a shorthanded goal with just 1:19 left in regulation. That brought the Wild to within a goal of Colorado at 3-2. Scandella’s goal came with Minnesota D-man Ryan Suter in the box for cross checking. With 1:30 to play, it looked as though P.A. Parenteau had scored an empty netter to give the Avalanche a 4-1 lead but he was offside on the play, negating the goal. Suter gave Parenteau a cross check after the play that was caught by an official and the Minnesota Wild’s man advantage was negated for the rest of the game. The rather dumb move by Suter was, I’m sure, born out of frustration at the looming 2-0 deficit his team faced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On the ensuing Colorado power play, Scandella brought the Wild to within a goal of tying the game with a nice deflection of a Mikko Koivu pass that Semyon Varlamov had no chance to stop. That goal was just the sixth shorthanded goal in Minnesota Wild playoff history. It’s also Scandella’s first shorthanded and second overall Stanley Cup Playoff goal. With an assist in Thursday’s series opener, Scandella now has an actual playoff point streak going at two games. Wow, we’re really digging deep here for positives in this game.
The Wild now had 1:19 to play, down a goal, and the netminder on the bench for an extra attacker that evened things up at five a side. The Wild were unable to score and the Colorado Avalanche put the game out of reach with an empty net goal by Paul Stastny off a feed by, who else, Nathan MacKinnon with just 14.2 seconds left in the game. Final score, Colorado Avalanche 4 – Minnesota Wild 2. Time to head to St. Paul on the red eye.
The Minnesota Wild are now 1-6 in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games with Mike Yeo at Head Coach. In the course of those seven gamems the Wild have been outscored 26-13. Pretty numbers those are not! I’m sure GonePuckWild.com Advanced Stats Guru Ger Devine will have more interesting stats and facts about the Minnesota Wild’s Stanley Cup Playoff history both all-time and under Head Coach Mike Yeo. When it comes to Minnesota’s goaltending in the rest of this series, I’d expect Darcy Kuemper to get the starts every night from here on out, at least for the rest of this series. If the Wild win this series, we’ll have to wait and see who gets which starts for the Stanley Cup Playoff Divisional Finals, but I digress. Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed eight goals in 99 minutes of work over two games to this point. That works out to a .822 save percentage and a 4.85 goals against average. Not exactly No. 1 goaltender stats. Kuemper looked good over his 26 minutes with a 0.00 goals against and a 1.000 save %.
Stanley Cup Playoff hockey makes a return to the State of Hockey on Monday, April 21st. There’s an outdoor party before the game by Gate Two of the Xcel Energy Center starting at 4:00 pm with an early game start at 6:00 pm Central Time. I’ll be back with a preview of Game Three Monday morning. Until then, keep the faith, Wild fans! This is Scott Drain still shouting, shouting it out loud, “LET’S GO WILD – BEAT THE AVALANCHE – LET’S GO WILD!!”