The Minnesota Wild beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 Thursday night to even their Stanley Cup Playoff Divisional Series at two games apiece. The Wild used two goals on 32 shots to overwhelm the Avalanche, who managed just 12 shots and a single goal in the loss. Minnesota powered their way to victory in St. Paul in front of a playoff record crowd of 19,396 fans who packed the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Jared Spurgeon then added another by Charlie Coyle in the second period. They allowed a Colorado goal in the second period while out shooting the Avalanche 32-12 for the game to even the series at 2 games apiece. For the second game on home ice the Minnesota Wild jumped all over the Colorado Avalanche and dominated the game from start to finish. Darcy Kuemper picked up the win in goal for the Wild making 11 saves on 12 shots for his second straight Stanley Cup Playoff victory.
The Wild controlled play throughout the game as they allowed the Avalanche just 12 shots on goal and 4 of those cam in the late stage of the third period on a late Colorado power play. The Minnesota defense was smothering, not allowing the speedy Colorado forwards time or space to work. The most critical defensive moments of the game came on that late power play when Jonas Brodin was whistled for holding with just 2:14 left on the clock in the third period. Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov was quickly on the bench giving the Avalanche a two man advantage. Mikael Granlund once again was a hero but this game it wasn’t for scoring the winning goal. Granlund blocked three shots from the Avalanche’s Erik Johnson inside of the last 50 seconds of the game. In his post game comments Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “A guy like that has an opportunity to create a great goal last game, but being out on the penalty killing situation he was in at the end of the game and knowing how important that is and knowing what his teammates need from him. That’s what we’ve seen from everybody and that’s why we’ve been successful the last couple of games.” The Wild defense is definitely what allowed the Wild to win this game and send the series back to Denver for game 5.
The Minnesota Wild’s first goal of the night came on a Jared Spurgeon slap shot from the top of the circle on a feed from Zach Parise just 3:47 into the game. goal was Spurgeon’s first playoff tally of his career. After waiting 65+ nerve wracking minutes for a Wild goal in game three an early lead was a welcome delight. Parise took a pass down low from Mikael Granlund and saw Spurgeon heading into the play from the blue line. Parise’s pass was on the mark an the Wild defenseman made no mistake blasting the puck past Varlamov into the upper corner of the net before the Avs goalie could react. From that point on Minnesota seemed to have a scoring chance every couple of minutes as they piked up 24 shots in the game. Their puck control was excellent but Varlamov was once again outstanding in goal making some huge saves to keep Colorado within a goal of tying the game.
The Wild’s second goal came on a bit of a strange bounce play. With Gabriel Landeskog in the penalty box on a hooking call Jason Pomminville sent a shot toward the net that went wide and hit the glass and stanchions behind the net and popped up in the air where most of the players on the ice last track of it. Luckily for Minnesota the puck landed right by Charlie Coyle’s stick near the net and he by a back hand shot past a surprised Colorado net minder Varlamov to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. At this point in the game the Stanley Cup Playoff record crowd of 19,396 was in a frenzy! For the second game in a row is was the loudest I’ve heard the Xcel Energy Center in a while. The Avalanche would take the edge off the crowd scoring their first AND only goal of the two games in St.Paul just 1:09 after Coyle’s goal. Ryan O’Reilly launched a soft shot from out near the point that found it’s way past Darcy Kuemper to cut the Wild lead in half.
The Wild would go on to lead the shots on goal category by a wide margin of 25-7 after two periods of play. In the the third period the Avalanche would only manage one, yes one, 5 on 5 shot on goal. That’s some excellent defense by your Minnesota Wild. The final four shots for Colorado came on the late power play that was defended in excellent fashion by the Wild penalty killers who were a perfect 4 for 4 on the night. The other half of the special teams play for the Wild went well as the power play was one for four on the night. The Avalanche power play is now 1 for 15 in the series. The Wild also outhit the Avs 16-14 for game four. Darcy Kuemper was once again great in goal with a minimal amount of work until the last 2 minutes of the game. He’s now allowed just 1 total goal in two straight starts. I think it’s safe to say he’ll get the start in Denver Saturday.
In the series the Wild have now out shot Colorado in each of the four games with a total advantage of 143 to 94 in the series. The Wild have now raced out of the gates and dominated the Avs two games in a row by controlling the puck, controlling play, and not allowing any sustained offensive pressure by Colorado. This Stanley Cup Playoff Divisional Series not head back to Denver for game 5 scheduled for Saturday night with opening face off scheduled for 8:30 pm Central Time.
This was an exciting night at the Xcel Energy Center and for Minnesota Wild fans everywhere. Minnesota now is faced with a best of three series and has to beat Colorado in the Pepsi Center to win the series and move on. The Wild are playing their best hockey of the season right now. They’re getting timely goals, great defense, winning the special teams battles, and doing whatever it takes to win games. After a shaky start to the series in which Minnesota lost a nail biter in game one and the was dominated by the Avalanche top line in game two, the Wild have come alive as a complete team unit. When they play like they did Thursday night they can beat any team in the NHL. I’ll be back Saturday with a preview of game 5 of this Stanley Cup Playoff Divisional series. Last night was fun, It was great to be there to see it in person. The Minnesota Wild are hot right now and need to keep the ball rolling. Until next time this is Scott Drain shouting victoriously from the rooftops, “LET’S GO WILD, LET’S GO WILD!!!”