Avs, Wild battle for series lead
(SportsNetwork.com) - After getting outplayed in a pair of close road losses, the Colorado Avalanche hope to regain a series lead when they return home to face the Minnesota Wild in Saturday's Game 5.
Colorado scored nine times en route to winning the first two games of this Western Conference quarterfinal series, but the Wild evened the best-of-seven set with a pair of defensive-minded victories on home ice.
Minnesota notched a 1-0 overtime victory in Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center and then posted a 2-1 win on Thursday to knot the series at two games apiece.
A switch in net has been part of the equation in getting Minnesota back in this series, but a better overall team effort on defense also has helped. Ilya Bryzgalov, the loser in Games 1 and 2, faced 45 shots in 99 minutes of action over Games 1 and 2, while Darcy Kuemper has seen just 48 pucks fired his way in 150 minutes of work.
Kuemper relieved Bryzgalov in Game 2 and posted a 22-save shutout when called upon to start Game 3. The 23-year-old rookie then faced only 12 shots to post the victory on Thursday.
The 12 shots allowed were a postseason club record for the Wild and the second-fewest amount of shots yielded by a team in a playoff game since 2008, behind only the 10 given up by Calgary on April 15, 2008.
"We spent a lot of time in their zone, but I think we're doing well without the puck. We're doing a better job of denying their speed," Wild forward Zach Parise said.
Charlie Coyle and Jared Spurgeon each scored once to help Kuemper earn the win.
"I've kind of learned the importance of showing confidence in yourself because I think the players feed off that a little bit," Kuemper said. "It relaxes them in the defensive zone, but it's easy to do when they're playing the way they are in front of me."
Ryan O'Reilly registered the lone goal for Colorado, while Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots in the setback.
Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny each were held without a point in Games 3 and 4 after giving Minnesota fits in the first two contests. Stastny had three goals and four assists in Games 1 and 2, MacKinnon notched a goal and six helpers in those outings and Landeskog posted three goals.
Landeskog, Colorado's young captain, hopes a change of venue can get the club's offense back on track.
"We know that we're strong at home," Landeskog said. "We're just going to go home and regroup and get back to work on Saturday."
The Avs, Central Division champions and the second seed in the West, were 26-11-4 on home ice during the 2013-14 regular season. Minnesota was just 17-17-7 on the road.
Minnesota's Matt Cooke served the first contest of his seven-game suspension for kneeing Colorado's Tyson Barrie in Game 3. Barrie is out four-to-six weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Game 6 of this set is scheduled for Monday in Minnesota. If necessary, Colorado will host Game 7 on Wednesday.
04/26 10:57:27 ET