The Pepsi Center was rocking again to start the game, and the Avalanche started off well, winning some face offs and getting some pressure on the Wild net. Unfortunately, an over-exuberant Cody McLeod took an interference penalty just over a minute into the game. The Avs' penalty killers were put to the test immediately as some pandamonium was erupting in front of Semyon Varlamov. At one point, the puck was sitting right in the crease, Varly totally unaware of its location. Good clearing by the defenders kept the puck out of the back of the net. The Wild power play continued with major pressure, and the Avs worked hard to kill it. As usual, Varlamov was the best guy on the ice at the time.
Continuing where they left off, Colorado struggled to get and keep the puck into the Wild zone. One such failure saw Minnesota move straight back into the Avs' zone to get the first goal on the night. The play was reviewed as bodies went into the net and caught Varly's perfectly placed redirection, but there was nothing to complain about on that one. It was definitely a good goal. Bad bounce, bad luck, but something that comes of driving to the net. Charlie Coyle continues to be a thorn in the Avs' side, making the folks that ridiculed him eat crow.
Nathan MacKinnon decided it was time to embarrass the shit out of the entire Wild team, making moves sexier than Scarlett Johansson. He picked up the puck just north of the the Avs blueline and his speed completely froze first the forwards and then the defensemen. With a sweet little move, he deked around Jarred Spurgeon, who tripped up on his own feet and fell on his ass. It gave MacK a nice look on net, beating Ilya Bryzgolav clean. It was the first of what is sure to be many, many playoff goals for the young forward.
Coming back from commercial break, the Avs went down a man again as Jan Hejda sent the puck cleanly over the glass, good for a delay of game. The Wild continued to have a fantastic power play, forcing Varly to make some fantastic saves. Another successful kill, though, kept the score tied at one.
Bryz was finally forced to make a great save after the Avs won an offensive zone face off, MacK took the puck down below the circles. A nice little flip pass to Gabriel Landeskog, who got a quick shot on target. The rebound came out to Paul Stastny, but the Game 1 hero couldn't quite get his stick solidly on the puck. A scramble down low, and Bryz covered up for the whistle.
With 3-and-a-half to go, the Avs starting getting some really good chances, again forcing Bryzgalov to make some saves. Already, you saw a team much more poised and comfortable with playing in a playoff game. We were seeing our Avs again. The offensive pressure continued to close out the period, with wave after wave of burgundy flowing into the Wild zone.
The period ended with a scrum that hinted at rising tempers and a tied game at one.
The second period started with a nice buzz on your managing editor and news that the Blue Jackets won. Wooooot!
MacKinnon's speed killed the Wild again. A turnover in the defenseive zone, a deke around Zach Parise, a drop pass to Landeskog and a laser hitting twine. First Mikko Koivu gets burned by MacK. Then Parise. The Wild's best players can'[t handle an 18-year-old rookie.
The Wild started to get some chances going but Varly completely shut the door on them. Avs continued to beat their opponents to the puck and move it out of the zone. Wild started upping the physicality, but Colorado matched it hit for hit. The Pepsi Center was shaking from the chants, especially the "VARLY" ones. I said it before, and I'll say it again: second intermission on Thursday, something clicked in Varly and that swagger was back.
Avalanche gott their first power play midway through the second after Nino Niederreiter skated between Varly and the net, tackling Tyson Barrie in the process. After the whistle, former Av Cody McCormick slashed Jaime McGinn with a two-handed chop. He got little more than a finger shake from the refs.
Just as the penalty expired, this happened.
Yeah, that was kind of fun.
This forced Yeo to pull Bryz, most likely to spark some momentum for his team with Darcy Kuemper getting the privilege of trying to stop MacK.
Frustrations starting getting the best of the Wild, and a scrum that erupted behind the net led to Kyle Brodziak getting into Brad Malone's face long after the whistle. Just as Malone started to come back at him, Patrick Bordeleau turned around and talked him down, ensuring that the Avs got the power play. Talk about a calm, vet-like move by Bordy. While the Avs didn't score on the PP, the chances were dangerous. It rocked the momentum and the puck just kept getting held in the offensive zone and thrown on net.
After the Landy, Stastny and MacKinnon show in the second, the teams went to the locker rooms with the Avs ahead 3-1.
The third including some end-to-end play the teams, and you could hear the crowd's breath stop short every time MacK had the puck on his stick. A scary moment happened when he skated gingerly off the ice after a collision in the defensive zone. He came back out, though, being the tough mother fucker that he is.
Jan Hejda was called for hooking at three minutes, giving the Wild the first power play of the period. Varly continued to stand tall, and some nice defense by Nick Holden (who's been having a tough series thus far) preserved the lead. A near-shorty by Talbot had Wild fans all over clinching their collective sphincter. A fantastic kill by the Avs.
A beauty of a steal by Ryan O'Reilly just inside the Wild blueline led to a pretty chance by PA Parenteau, who was having a much better game than he did in Game 1. If the Avs' second line starts clicking, Minny is going to have a hard time digging themselves out of this series. Add to that the hot glove flashes Varly's rocking, and folks are getting a good show.
The third had moments of seeing the Avs sitting back on the lead sandwiched between moments of brilliance. It wasn't limited to the top six lines, either. When your third line turns a three-on-two against to a three-on-one for, you know shit is working for a team.
At the four minute mark, Parenteau got high-sticked by Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin. PA fell to the ice , holding his eye, and went straight back to the locker room with the trainers. It caught him right under his eye. Half an inch higher and he could have lost an eye. Unfortunately, no ref was in a position to see it, so there wasn't a call.
Kuemper kept looking at his coach, waiting for the nod to hit the bench. At just over the two-minute mark, the Wild got the extra skater. A recently returned Parenteau got the puck center ice and hit the empty-netter. But the linesman totally blew it and called it offside. A pissed off Suter ended up in the box, and the Avs got a power play. Unfortunately, the Wild was able to get a short-handed goal, cutting the lead to one with 1:19 left in the third.
The boys came back for another chance on the empty net, but Stastny just missed. MacK wasn't happy about it, so he grable the puck. Koivu dragged him down to the ice, but the rookie was able to get the pass off to Stastny who didn't miss this time. Both the boys ended up with four points on the night.
What a fucking fantastic win. Avs lead series 2-0, heading into Minnesota for a Monday tilt.
MHH Three Stars
3. Gabriel Landeskog - on fire all over the ice, hitting, scoring, setting up his teammates
2. Paul Stastny - doing what Pauly Walnuts does
1. Nathan MacKinnon - tied an NHL record for most assists by an 18-year-old in a playoff year. He's two games in.