Late rally by Avalanche takes Game 1 from Wild, 5-4, in overtime
By Jared Crozier
Like most of the other first round games, offense was the big story -- the Avalanche and the Wild combined for nine goals in Game 1. Normally an up-tempo shootout would be to Colorado's advantage, but the Avs struggled early and trailed 4-2 by the end of the second period. Eventually, Minnesota allowed Colorado too many chances and paid dearly for it when Paul Stastny scored the tying goal in the final seconds of the third period. He went on to score the game-winner for the Avalanche in OT.
Here are some notes and observations from an action-packed Game 1:
• The two teams had five relatively tame regular season meetings (including a rare penalty-free game), but the tone on Thursday night was definitely different. There were plenty of early post-whistle scrums.
• The Avalanche really missed injured centers Matt Duchene and John Mitchell, especially in the face-off circle where the Wild won 54.5 percent of the draws. Colorado improved slightly as the game went on, but it would have fared much better if two of their three best face-off men had been in the lineup. Duchene and Mitchell both won more than 50 percent of their regular-season draws.
• Refusing to panic while trailing 4-2 in the third period and coming away with a win will certainly be a huge confidence boost for the youthful Avs, several of whom were making their postseason debuts. Captain Gabriel Landeskog scored his first playoff goal, while rookie Nathan MacKinnon (3 assists) and Tyson Barrie (2) had multiple-point outings. Center Max Talbot and coach Patrick Roy are really the only members of the team with extensive playoff experience.
• The edge in veteran experience goes to Minnesota, which can turn to Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville, Matt Cooke and Zach Parise for leadership. The Wild looked comfortable in Colorado's hostile arena and took advantage of the Avs' mistakes for the first 40 minutes before squandering the opportunity to steal home ice advantage. How Minnesota will respond in Game 2 will be revealing. "You have to learn from it," Suter said after the game. "Learn that the game's not over until it's over and you have the finish the games."
• People across social media gave a lot of credit to Avalanche coach Patrick Roy for his "gutsy" decision to pull goalie Semyon Varlamov with almost three minutes left and Colorado trailing 4-3. However, the move came within a couple of inches and a diving save by defenseman Erik Johnson of backfiring. Three minutes is an eternity to play in front of an empty net, and the Avalanche didn't score the equalizer until there were only 13.4 seconds left. Living so dangerously again will likely prove costly, but you can probably expect more gambles from the risk-taking Roy.