Improbable Avs Rally Again, Beat Wild 5-4 In OT
Posted by Mike Rice
DENVER -- (AP) Paul Stastny scored 7:27 into overtime after tying the game with 13.4 seconds remaining in regulation, lifting the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild in the opener of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Thursday night.
Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn also added goals for Colorado in Patrick Roy's postseason debut behind the bench. The Hall of Fame goaltender led the Avalanche to two Stanley Cup titles as a player.
Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Kyle Brodziak scored for the Wild.
Game 2 is Saturday.
Stastny beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a close-in wrist shot in overtime, the same type of play Stastny used to tie the game in regulation.
Not that the Avalanche were too surprised by the late rally because, "we've done it all year," Stastny said.
This was a stunner for the Wild.
"It's really disappointing. We're in the driver's seat," said Zach Parise, who had two assists. "We're in a really good position going into the third and really throughout the third we were in a good position. We made some mistakes and it was in our net and that's the game. Our mistakes, unfortunately, tonight cost us and got them back into the game."
Roy made a bold move with 3:01 remaining, pulling Semyon Varlamov for an extra skater. Erik Johnson saved a potential empty-net goal with over a minute left as he raced down the ice and slapped away the puck just before it crossed the goal line.
Moments later, Stastny beat Bryzgalov with a shot over his shoulder -- the capacity crowd erupted.
The Wild took a 4-2 lead after a three-goal second period. They spent the final period trying to play a prevent defense, not allowing the Avalanche to take advantage of their quickness.
O'Reilly stole the puck from Brodziak and slid it over to McGinn, who batted it past Bryzgalov to make it a one-goal game at 12:47.
Roy hardly played things by the book as the team tied a franchise record with 52 wins in the regular season. That gambler's mentality certainly didn't change in the postseason. Roy said before the game that it was his job to "have a `B' plan and a `C' plan in our pocket" in case of an emergency.
In this case, it was pulling Varlamov with plenty of time remaining.
"Almost did it at four minutes," Roy said, smiling.
It almost backfired when the Wild sent a puck rolling toward the goal. Johnson chased it down and knocked the puck away before it crossed the line. He also bumped the goal off its moorings. Matt Cooke took a shot on the goal with Johnson lying in front of the net, which upset a few Avalanche players and led to some pushing and shoving.
Although the underdog in the series, the Wild were actually one of the hottest teams down the stretch as they fought just to get into the playoffs. Bryzgalov provided a spark after he was acquired from Edmonton in early March. He went 7-1-3 down the stretch.
But Bryzgalov has been inconsistent in the postseason over his career. He's 17-20 and has allowed 109 goals.
"I've got no problem with his game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of Bryzgalov.
Landeskog's first playoff goal midway through the opening period was set up by his big hit along the boards, jarring the puck loose from Jonas Brolin. The Avs cycled it up top and then down low to Stastny, who passed the puck to an open Landeskog in front of the net.
The lead didn't last long as two minutes later Coyle tied the game when he lined a shot into the corner with Varlamov scrambling to get up.
The Avs were a little tentative to start the game, possibly a result of nerves. Half of Colorado's roster has never experienced the postseason, including Landeskog. The Avs captain said the key for the youthful team was to keep their emotions in check, without "playing like a robot."
Earlier in the day, Wild players wore shirts that featured a picture of the Stanley Cup on the back with the slogan, "Take it baby!" above the coveted trophy. ... The Avs were without FJohn Mitchell (head) and D Cory Sarich (back). They were already missing leading scorerMatt Duchene (knee). ... Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon finished with three assists.