The Pepsi Center was on fire early Wednesday night, with a rivalry matchup between the Colorado Avalanche the Minnesota Wild closing out the week prior to the All Star Break. Unfortunately, the showdown was a disappointment to attending Avalanche faithful, as Colorado was unable to recover from penalties and bad breaks.
We heard the Pepsi Center’s first roar after Big Carl Soderberg netted his career high 17th goal after a strong effort from line-mates Colin Wilson and Matt Calvert (5:14). Calvert’s forecheck forced a turnover which lead to a nifty pass from Wilson to Soderberg in the slot who scored on a redirect.
It didn’t take long for the Wild to respond. Eric Staal scored on his own redirect goal (6:50) after a puck fluttered off the heal of Sam Girard’s stick leading to a turnover and score.
Nearly 13 minutes into the period the Avalanche powerplay made its mark as defender Tyson Barrie scored on a wrister from the point. The puck found its way through traffic, past Devan Dubnyk (like it had eyes) and careened off the left post and in. The Avs lead 2-1.
Yet again the Wild responded quickly on a cross-ice pass from Ryan Suter and a quick wrister from defenseman Jared Spurgeon. A shot that found its way past Phillip Grubauer’s glove side bringing the game to a 2-2 tie.
The period ended with flurries from both teams and a sigh of relief. It seemed as though we were in for a high scoring affair.
Colorado was pressuring Dubnyk early in the second period and the pressure lead to a Ryan Graves shot that went right off the post and just outside the goal line. Things began to get a little chippy as both Zadorov and Rantanen broke their sticks while crosschecking members of the Wild. It’s not a penalty if they don’t call it and all is fair in rivalry hockey.
The Wild slowly turned the tide and began to retain possession and position in the Avalanche zone. As the momentum shifted an untimely high-sticking penalty on Alexander Kerfoot and a blatant hold from defender Ian Cole lead to a 5 on 3 opportunity for the Wild. The Wild made quick work of the advantage after Mikael Grandlund found Eric Stall backdoor for his second goal (7:24) on a pass that slid past a stick-less Matt Calvert. Wild took their first lead of the night 3-2. This goal proved to be the back breaker of the evening.
The Avalanche still had almost a minute of a holding penalty to kill and did just that and then some. To end the penalty kill Sheldon Dries was cut down on a two on one putting the Avalanche on the advantage. Unfortunately, the Avalanche were unable to capitalize.
With 8 minutes remaining in the period, Tyson Barrie was penalized 4 minutes for high-sticking and cutting Jordan Greenway on a stick lift gone horribly wrong. The Avalanche not only killed the penalty but seemed to come out of the penalty-kill with some momentum. At the end of the kill, Nathan Mackinnon wore a dump-in off the inside of his foot and appeared to be in considerable discomfort. A scary moment for Avalanche faithful. He didn’t miss a beat as the Avs peppered Dubnyk on his next shift.
Despite the frenzy, Wild goaltender Dubnyk held firm, and the Wild responded with 22.1 seconds remaining in the period after a hard-working goal from Charlie Coyle. Avs trailed 4-2, and the Pepsi Center deflated.
The Avalanche desperately needed two points going into the break, and that’s precisely how they played in the third period, desperate. The Avalanche just couldn’t seem to get anything going offensively as the teams went back and forth with no real scoring opportunities to start the final period. The wild were clearly controlling the flow of the game.
The Avalanche began to show a little frustration and grit as the third period wore on lead. What looked like some passion turned into a few defeating mistakes as MacKinnon then took a penalty for passing it with his hand. Avalanche goaltender Phillip Grubauer made a few vital saves before Patrik Nemeth sent a puck Happy Gilmore style into the stands (on the opposite end of the ice) giving Minnesota their second 5 on 3 of the night. Once again they cashed in on the opportunity with a top-shelf blast from Ryan Suter (8:13) giving the wild a 5-2 lead.
The game ended with more back and forth with little life shown from the boys in burgundy and blue. A game that promised to be the turning point for the Avs after an awful month and a half proved to provide more of the same. More inconsistency from a team that started off the year at the top of the west kept them clinging to their Wild Card spot only by virtue of a trio of losses from the Pacific Division teams breathing down their necks. Bring on the All-Star break.