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WCQ Game 1: Avalanche 3, Wild 2 (OT)

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photos courtesy of Tom Olmscheid/AP

Joe Sakic.  Great clutch player, or the greatest clutch player?

After his team blew a two-goal lead in the third period, captain and patron saint Super Joe scored eleven minutes into overtime to lead the Colorado Avalanche to a huge win over the Wild in the first round, 3-2.

The goal, a backhand garbage shot, was the eighth playoff overtime goal of his career and extended his league record.  When you're on a list ahead of guys like Maurice Richard and Glenn Anderson, you know you're the clutchest mofo on the planet.  Chris who?

But Super Joe's heroics wouldn't have been necessary had the Avs held on to the lead they established in the second period.  Kurt Sauer got things started with a tip in from the slot with help from Sakic and Wojtek "Suck My Ass, Q" Wolski just a minute and a half into the middle frame.  Sauer's celebration was less surprise and more "how you like them apples?"  Priceless.

Ryan Smyth followed in the second half, with a power play goal at 13:08.  A power play goal?  Why yes.  In fact, the Avs killed no kittens at all last night because they scored on the only power play they had.

Let's be honest here.  Officiating is a tough job, and mistakes are bound to be made.  Complaining about bad calls as an excuse for why your team won/lost/died on the ice is never worth the effort, and indicative of a weak constitution.  But, all that said, the officials last night were so unbelievably biased it defies belief.  Brent Burns took run after run at Peter Forsberg, Jose Theodore took a blatant knee to the head, and Mikko Koivu decided to cuddle with Theo for a good ten seconds after being pushed on top of him during the second period.  The refs called none of it.  In the first period, Andrew Brunette put a legal, standing hit on Eric Belanger and he got called for boarding.  Belanger didn't even fall down.  It was ridiculous all night long.

But, like I said, complaining about the refs is like complaining about the weather.  What difference will it make?

If there was just one totally warranted penalty call, it was on Scott Hannan in the third period when he elbowed the living crap out of James Sheppard along the near boards during a scramble for the puck.  The Wild went on the power play and promptly scored the tying goal.

Don't think that Jose Theodore's weak third period meant he had a bad game, though.  He had a really good game, and made some huge key saves.  He stopped all eleven shots he faced in the first period and was money in overtime.  He had 28 total saves on 30 shots and finished with a save percentage of .933.  That's pretty damn good, but I'm sure he would have preferred a shutout.  I think we all would have.

The Avs defense was pretty good most of the game, with great shutdown efforts by Jeff Finger, Kurt Sauer and even Scott Hannan.  Finger took a huge hit from Derek Boogaard (who had an inconceivable nine minutes of ice time) at one point but hopped right back up.  The Avs were out-hit 25-18, but Ben Guite and Ruslan Salei both had three apiece to lead the team.

One of Salei's hits was on Mark Parrish near the team benches during the second period.  The hit was shoulder-to-shoulder, but Parrish lost his balance and ran out of room and crashed hard into the boards.  He was sprawled out on the ice for several minutes before walking with assistance to the locker room.  It was later reported that he suffered a head injury and he didn't return.  I know I speak for everybody at MHH when I say I hope he recovers quickly.  Parrish is a classy guy and nobody wanted to see him get hurt.

Overall, this was one of the best hockey games I've seen in a really long time.  Huge swings in momentum, great shots on goal, great saves by both goalies, some hard hits and post-whistle scrums, and all around amazing play at times by both the Avs and the Wild.

If game 1 was any indication of the series as a whole, we're all in for a hell of a ride.

And I would be totally remiss if I didn't thank all the MHH members who participated in the most epic game thread of all time.  Way over 400 total comments, including some from a very civilized Wild fan who stopped by for a while until the Avs started scoring in the second period.  You're welcome back any time, sir.  All in all, truly impressive posting effort by all involved.  I'm pretty sure the Avs wouldn't have won without us.

Stars of the Game:*

  1. Jose Theodore (28sv, .933)
  1. Brian Rolston (0g, 1a)
  1. Todd Fedoruk (1g, 0a)

*Whoever decided the stars of the game should be shot.  How do you not list Joe Sakic, who had the game-winning overtime goal and an assist?  How do you list two players from the losing team?  I smell some serious homerism...