The Minnesota Wild are headed to a game 7 with the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday night. The Wild beat the Avalanche 5-2 at the Xcel Energy Center Monday night in a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate. The teams were tied 2-2 entering the third period and a spectacular Zach Parise tip of a Mikko Koivu shot put the Minnesota Wild up 3-2 with 6:29 to play in the game. Once again Colorado Head Coach Patrick Roy pulled goaltender Semyon Varlamov with well over two minutes to play, this time 2:44 was left on the clock. Unlike games and five though the Avalanche were unable to get the equalizer. This night as well the Wild found the touch and scored not one but TWO empty net goals to put the game away and earn the 5-2 victory. The Xcel Energy Center crowd of 19,314 erupted as Jason Pominville scored the empty net goal at 18:34 of the period to put the Minnesota Wild up 4-2 and seemingly put the game out of reach for the Avalanche. Roy continued to keep Varlamov on the bench though and press on with an empty net, that allowed Clayton Stoner to score an amazing empty net goal from deep in his defensive zone. To make the final score of Minnesota Wild 5, Colorado Avalanche 2.
The Minnesota Wild paid Zach Parise and Ryan Suter big bucks to come to Minnesota and Monday’s game showed why. Parise scored two goals and added two assists on the night. The first goal opened the scoring in the game just :49 seconds into the opening period. He deflected in a Ryan Suter shot during a power play that started :26 seconds into the game as Nathan MacKinnon was whistled for Holding Charlie Coyle. Parise would have an assist on Mikael Granlund‘s slick five hole shot that beat Varlamov at 9:35 of the period. Parise would then score the game winner in the third and assist on Pominvile’s empty netter to seal the deal. Quite a night for Captain America.
Ryan Suter had an great game as well. He assisted on both of Parise’s goals and had three shots on goal, blocked a shot, one hit, and two takeaways. He, of course, led the team in time on ice at 26:41, a rather low total for him. His only gaffe of the night came on a botched shot during the last second of a 5 on 3 power play for the Wild. The puck squirted forward to Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly who hit Paul Stastny with a tape to tape pass that sent the forward in alone on Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper. Stastny beat Kuemper up high to cut the Wild’s two goal first period lead in half.
Wild head coach Mike Yeo, while pleased with the performance said the big test is still to come and the goal hasn’t yet been reached. He was masterful getting the match ups he wanted throughout Monday’s tilt to slow down the Avs high powered top lines. Throughout the game the Wild defense came up with big clears when they had too. They weathered a dominant second period by the Avalanche as they managed to tie the game at two apiece on a Nick Holden power play goal 4:47 into the second frame. Minnesota’s play improved as the second period moved along and the teams entered the third still knotted at two. After a lot of back and forth and trading of power plays Parise scored the go ahead goal at 13:31 of the third. He tipped in a Mikko Koivu shot while being checked in the back. As he was being hit Parise still managed to get his stick into position to deflect the puck past Varlamov with his blade. It was by far the best goal of the night.
Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves on 23 shots and came away with his third win of the series. All three at the Xcel Energy Center. He now stands at 3-1, with a .934 save percentage and a 1.53 goals against average. Some pretty heady number for a rookie goaltender relegated to backup duty at the start of this Stanley Cup Playoff Divisional Series. Kuemper should be the man in net come Wednesday night’s game 7 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Once again the Minnesota Wild came up big when their collective back was against the wall. Before game five in Denver Avalanche Head Coach Roy said it was time for his team to put their (manly equipment) on the table. Monday night the Minnesota Wild wound up and with a big slap shot sent those (shriveled pucks) back to Denver for game 7. I’ll be back with a preview of Wednesday night’s action and until then, this is Scott Drain shouting hoarsely at the top of my lungs, “LET’S GO WILD – BEAT THE AVS – LET’S GO WILD!!”
For information on ticket prices for this game 7, along with the other two game 7′s on Wednesday, check out this article on TheStreet.com.