For the 2nd game in a row, the Avalanche and Wild played a game that either team could win. Unfortunately, it was the Wild getting the lucky bounce in overtime last night and they tied the series at one on a goal by Keith "The Sniper" Carney.
This was another tight game featuring hard hitting, excellent defense and solid goaltending. As in game one, the Avalanche jumped to the lead when Peter Forsberg found himself on the ice against Sean Hill and Martin Skoula instead of Brent Burns and Kim Johnsson. Forsberg deked the pants off of Hill and found a nice little seam to fire the puck past Nik Backstrom.
That 1-0 lead stood until the 1:37 mark of the 3rd period, when, with Forsberg in the box for a phantom hooking penalty, Pavol Demitra rifled a beauty of a shot past a screened Jose Theodore into the far, top corner. Once again, the Avalanche let a 3rd period lead get away from them.
The game seemed to be headed to overtime, but late in the period Avalanche-killer Mikko Koivu tossed a 60' curveball past Theodore. It looked like it would be a dagger into the heart of the Avs - an unexpected, weak roller of a shot that just confused the heck out of Theo. The Wild players, seeing their first lead of the series, celebrated like they'd won the game. It's a long series, guys - might want to save some of that emotion for games 3, 4 and 5...
One thing I've been extremely impressed with during this series and down the stretch is the resiliency of the Avalanche. It seems like every time they fall behind or give up a tough goal, instead of spiraling into a funk, they just calmly set out to get it done. I'm sure that owes a lot to the veteran makeup of this team. Or maybe they spike the water bottles on the Avalanche bench with Quaaludes. It doesn't really matter. What does matter is that, while the Wild fans and players were busy basking in the glory of a win, the Avs were busy on the ice.
After the Wild iced the puck with 90 seconds to go, Joel Quenneville pulled Theodore. The Avs came very close to scoring, with the puck just missing the stick of Ryan Smyth to the right of Backstrom. Why did it miss the stick? Because Johnsson had hooked Smyth, keeping him from getting a golden scoring chance. Johnsson argued endlessly about the call, and Jacques Lemaire seemed to pop about 70 blood vessels in his face as he screamed that Smyth dived on the play. Please. There were a lot of terrible calls and non-calls for BOTH teams in the game, but that was not one of them. It was a textbook hook and even the extremely biased Wild broadcasters felt it was a penalty. If anything, Johnsson could have easily gotten extra time for his tirade. And if he had, I might be writing about a different outcome. As it was, he got two minutes and the Avalanche converted on the ensuing powerplay. The Avs looked remarkably calm there, carefully moving the puck around. When Forsberg dropped it back to John-Michael Liles on the blueline, Liles seemed to take a deep breath or two to wait for traffic before snapping it gently toward the net. It deflected off of Milan Hejduk in the slot and right past Niklas Backstrom (who was stuck behind, who else, Ryan Smyth). The goal simultaneously had me jumping to my feet, while silencing a stunned crowd of 19,360.
Unfortunately, the Avalanche couldn't build on that momentum in overtime. Joe Sakic was out there for the deciding goal, but he wasn't the hero this time. That honor goes to Keith Carney. I don't know if he was taking a shot or trying to center it, but, either way his puck found it's way to the toe of Ruslan Salei's skate in front and right into the back of the net. There was a review - Brian Rolston was trying to kick the puck in but, unfortunately, it seemed to just miss his skate and the goal stands. The Avs have been doing an incredible job blocking shots and getting sticks and bodies on passes. Unfortunately, all that work clogging the lanes has led to two fluky goals off the skates of our defensemen. Call them unlucky breaks or just a cost of doing business - either way, I don't want to see the Avs change what they're doing in their own end.
I wouldn't mind seeing some better results in the Wild end, though. Although Forsberg did score a goal, the Wild mostly shut down our top two lines last night. Most of our offensive pressure came from Tyler Arnason and Ryan Smyth (David Jones left midway through the game with an injury) and the 4th line. I'm not even sure if Wojtek Wolski played in the 1st period - he was completely invisible to start the game, but did seem to pick up a bit as the game went on. The unflappable Paul Stastny seems, well, flapped in the offensive zone - he's looked very tentative in both games and seems to be looking to pass the rock the minute the puck finds his stick. Paul, just shoot the thing. Good things will happen, I promise.
Or, perhaps he and Tyler Arnason have just switched numbers without telling anyone. Was that really Arnason helping out his defenseman behind the Colorado net last night? I didn't even know he was aware you could do that. And, was that him trying to fight throw checks instead of skating away from them? And, most amazingly, was that him taking - and winning - those two critical offensive zone draws late in the 3rd period? I'm not sure if Arnason has picked up a copy of Faceoffs for Dummies or what, but he has very quickly and very quietly become excellent at draws. *Pause*. Yes, really. Back on March 20th, Arnason reached what had to be a low point even for him, when he was a whopping 3 for 18 (16.7%) in the circle in games against the Flames and these same Wild. In the 9 games since, Tyler Arnason has - are you ready - won more than 60% of the draws he's taken (54-35). Yes, really. I don't know how or why a 45% guy has suddenly become a 60% guy, but I'm certainly not going to complain. I've ragged on Arnie many times since he's joined the team, and I'm having a little fun now, but, all kidding aside, I am extremely impressed with that improvement. On one of those late draws, he took it instead of Joe Sakic. When Sakic is on the ice to be the back up to Arnason, you know something magical has happened.
(Speaking of draws, I've noticed that when Stastny gets kicked out, Hejduk will step in and not Forsberg. In fact, in the final regular season game, Stastny got booted and skated towards Foppa. Forsberg headed towards the linesman to step in but then apparently got waved off by the bench because he changed course at the last minute and moved over to trade places with Hejduk. He has taken two faceoffs in the series, but Hejduk has taken four. I find it curious that the longtime center seems to have a redlight when it comes to taking draws).
The officiating continues to be, frankly, a mess. There's been some running jokes here and over about MHH about my position on the officiating, and I feel I should clarify just a little before I have my Avalanche Fanboy Card revoked. The officiating in both games have been rather poor, but I don't think - as some have said - that it's skewed towards any one team. Both teams have a lot to complain about. Theodore was run into a couple of times in game one and Backstrom was the recipient of the blind eye by the refs in game two. Midway through the 1st period last night, Hannan got stuck in the middle of a change and the puck hit his skate as he was trying to (literally) dive into the bench. I could see it was a delay of game, how could the linesman right next to him miss it? And, of course, Brent Burns continues to be allowed to take liberties against Forsberg. My favorite was when Burns tackled Forsberg in the corner, 100 feet away from the play and just held him to the ice as he took shots at him (while Wild color guy Mike Greenlay asked "who is Forsberg bothering now"). Or maybe it was the time Eric Belanger got called for a high stick on Forsberg - the second high stick and third penalty on Forsberg ON THE SAME SHIFT. I would love to have more consistency on calls for BOTH clubs. And Joe is exactly right when he says "I hope the coaches and captains of both teams register formal complaints with the league".
Note that in the non-calls I did not mention the hilarious "high stick" on Todd Fedoruk as time was expiring in the 2nd. That was the play where Kurt Sauer seemed to get his stick up on Fedoruk. The big guy spent a solid minute after the whistle skating around rubbing his face in agony, and then stayed on the ice with the "I can't believe you didn't call that" face long after the rest of his teammates had gone to the locker room. The Wild broadcasters were AMAZED when they saw the replay. Well, I was amazed too. I was amazed that getting hit in the arm can cause unbearable pain to your face. I know Fedoruk probably has more than a few scrambled synapses up there, and that would be exhibit A that there's something seriously wrong with the poor guy. Todd, please keep this as a handy reference chart for next time. This is an arm and this is a face. If it helps, maybe you could have someone label both with a sharpie or something. Best of luck.
This time, the 5 keys don't look so great. And, amazingly, we lost the game...
Theodore: A good game for about 58 minutes. The Carney goal was a tough break (stoppable, but a tough break), but there's really no excuse for that Koivu goal. Let's save the Dan Cloutier impressions for another time, k?
Sakic: A non-factor. His line did get better as the game progressed, but that's like saying I'm getting skinner when the scale says I've lost half a pound. It wasn't enough.
Physicality: The Avs started out setting the tone with regards to hitting. Jeff Finger laid out Derek Boogaard early in the game, and Cody McLeod absolutely crushed Kim Johnsson at the blueline in the first period. As the game progressed, though, it seemed like the hitting for both clubs declined a bit. The Wild were credited with 24 hits to the Avs 12, but I have a tough time swallowing those numbers. The hitting was much closer to even than the Minnesota scorekeeper suggests. Might as well let that guy pick the 3 stars of the game while he's at it.
Special Teams: The Avs were 1 for 4, the Wild 1 for 3. I'll call this a push, but I am concerned that the Wild had 10 PP shots to our 7 even though we had a bit more ice time with the man advantage.
Keep the Lead: Failed. Again.
- Paul Stastny has 2 shots and no points in the series so far
- Pierre-Marc Bouchard led both teams with 7 shots. Koivu was right behind him with 6.
- The Avs blocked 23 shots (to the Wild's 7) and have 40 blocked shots already. Ruslan Salei has 7 in the series so far, and every Avalanche defenseman besides Sauer has at least one in each game.
The series switches to Denver where the teams will play game 3 and game 4 on Monday and Tuesday. There's a lot of theories as to which team the back-to-back games will help/hurt. Does it hurt Forsberg? Or the thin Wild defense? I think both teams will find a way to fight through it, and the two day rest this weekend should minimize any negative effect either team might feel.
If anyone expected the Colorado Avalanche to sweep the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, they were kidding themselves. In that building, in front of that crowd, the Avalanche are lucky to be returning to Denver with a win in hand. - Joe, Mile High Hockey
I've got to give it to Q, he's been doing a great job coaching so far. From the timeout in game 1 after the comeback to the timeout tonight to tell his boys what to do on the 6-on-4, he's been rock solid behind the bench. - Shane Girous, Colorado Avalanche Talk
If Jones, who was in a walking cast after the game, remains out, that would necessitate some shuffling, after Colorado coach Joel Quenneville stuck with a stagnant lineup down the stretch of the regular season and in the first two games of the series. His primary choices would be to plug winger Cody McCormick into the lineup, or to suit up Jordan Leopold and go with seven defensemen. - Terry Frei, Denver Post
Minnesota lost right wing Branko Radivojevic early in the first period when he landed awkwardly on his leg and back after being checked by Paul Stastny. Radivojevic returned to play four shifts in the second and 10 in the third before limping off the ice favoring his right leg late in regulation after slamming into the end boards. - Mike Cook, Rocky Mountain News
Hockey players have been taught, probably since the sport was invented, to fire the puck at the net because there is always the possibility that something good will happen. Veteran defenseman Keith Carney did just that Friday night and caught a fortunate break to give the Minnesota Wild a 3-2 overtime win against the Avalanche at the Xcel Energy Center. - Rick Sadowski, Rocky Mountain News
My question, and I always seem to have these questions after the Avs play the Wild in the playoffs is, Keith Carney is still playing?! What the?! If there is one thing that I will never forget about Jacques Lemaire it is that he likes to stock up on random grinders from the 90’s. - Aaron D'Albey, The Dog and Pony Show
Lemaire tried to limit the minutes of Carney and fellow 38-year-old Sean Hill, but he had no choice but to play Carney in overtime on Friday night. Carney pounced on a loose puck and let loose with a slap shot just outside the faceoff circle that squeaked past Theodore. - Associated Press
We have ourselves a series! A gut-bustin', mother-lovin' real playoff series! - Wild Road Tripper, Hitting the Post
Peter Forsberg is emerging as a force now; aside from his "style of play", Forsberg is producing now- a nice goal late in the first, and also an assist. His clashes with Brent Burns are becoming epic, but the beauty of Forsberg's game is that the harder you play him, the more effective he is. He's not like other players in that aspect. You can hit him, cross check him, pancake him in the boards, but its not going to stop him- in fact there is a greater chance that whoever is on Forsberg detail will get sucked into some sort of retaliation, and perhaps a penalty. - Dan, Deuce by Definition
In the first period Martin Skoula answered some injury questions early as he dropped to the ice to block a Peter Forsberg shot. - Derek Felska, MVN
The crowd leaving the building was extremely pumped up. The chants in the foyer were almost louder than during the game. - David Kingsbury, Hockey in Minnesota
My voice no longer exists...which, in this game, is a good thing. - Elise, 18,568 Reason Why
Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions, but the Wild, which had 23 shots blocked, think its scores the winner with 1:51 left in the third on Koivu’s shot from just inside the blue line.Then Kim Johnsson’s called for a questionable hooking penalty and Milan Hejduk scores on the redirection with 43.8 ticks left to tie it.But the Wild’s veterans said some bigtime words of composure during the intermission, and the Wild gets a lucky winner — fittingly off of one final blocked shot. - Michael Russo, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Only eight Wild players, including injured Nick Schultz, hit the ice today as the Wild got the chance to rest some aching bodies with two days between games. It’s scheduled to take off for Denver at 3 p.m. so it can get accustomed to the altitude during practice there tomorrow. Branko Radivojevic is scheduled to make the trip to Denver to perhaps gut out another game on his injured right leg. - Michael Russo, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Man the D looks tired. Carney and Burns looked like they were going to pass out in their post game interviews. -J., Wild View from Section 216