NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, April 24th (All times Eastern)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1) at Minnesota Wild (1-2), 9:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - After losing the first two games of the series, the Minnesota Wild will try to pull even in the Western Conference quarterfinals when they host the Colorado Avalanche in Thursday's Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild, owner of the first of the West's two wild card spots, lost Game 1 in Denver by a 5-4 score in overtime and then dropped a 4-2 decision in Saturday's second meeting. However, Minnesota was able to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole by recording a 1-0 overtime win in Monday's Game 3 clash in St. Paul.
Mikael Granlund scored the lone goal of Monday's game 5:08 into the extra session, converting a highlight-reel tally to lift the Wild to their first win of this best-of-seven series.
Granlund skated the puck behind the net and to the right boards where he fought off a check. Powering his way to the front, Granlund was able to sweep the puck into the left side of the net while falling to the ice.
It was the first career playoff tally for the 22-year-old Finnish forward.
"Well, it would have been nice to get a couple of more goals," said Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo. "The part where I give my guys credit is that they were tough enough to stay with it and not get frustrated."
Darcy Kuemper, making his first-ever playoff start, turned away all 22 shots for the shutout. Ilya Bryzgalov started the first two games in net for Minnesota, but was pulled in Game 2 and replaced by Kuemper as the starter on Monday.
"It had that feeling that one goal was going to be the difference," said Kuemper. "My teammates played amazingly and made things a lot easier for me. I just tried to stay focused and keep the pucks away when they got close."
Semyon Varlamov made 45 saves for the Avalanche, who went 0-for-4 on the power play.
"They played with more urgency than we did," said Colorado head coach Patrick Roy. "They, without a doubt, were more hungry than us tonight."
In addition to suffering their first setback of the series, the Avalanche also lost key defenseman Tyson Barrie for four-to-six weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. The offensive-minded blueliner suffered the injury after a nasty knee-on-knee hit from Minnesota forward Matt Cooke.
Cooke was only assessed a minor for kneeing Barrie during the game, but he was hit by the league with a seven-game suspension on Wednesday. The 35-year-old Cooke has been suspended six previous times for various offenses during his 15-year NHL career, with the last coming in the spring of 2011. That was a 17- game ban (10 regular-season games and the entirety of the Penguins' first- round series against Tampa Bay) for a blatant elbow to the head of Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
Despite his history of supplemental discipline, Cooke is not considered a "repeat offender" from a financial standpoint since his last suspension occurred more than 18 months ago.
Barrie, 22, was second among Colorado defenseman with 38 points in 64 games this season and he paced the Avs blue line with 13 goals. The youngster had two assists and was a plus-three in this series before exiting Monday's game.
The Avs will replace Barrie with Ryan Wilson, who had six assists in 28 games with Colorado in 2013-14. Wilson has one assist in four career playoff tilts.
While the Avs try to get by without Barrie, Colorado rookie forward Nathan MacKinnon hopes to return to the scoresheet in Game 4 after getting shut out on Monday.
MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in last summer's draft, notched seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) over the first two games of this series, matching an NHL record for most points in the first two games of a playoff career. In Game 3, however, the 18-year-old was limited to three shots in just over 22 minutes of time.
Colorado is expected to insert forward prospect Joey Hishon into the lineup for his NHL debut in Game 4. Hishon, the 17th overall pick of the 2010 draft, was recalled from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. The 22- year-old had 10 goals and 14 assists in 50 games with the Monsters during the 2013-14 AHL regular season.
If Colorado can win tonight, the Central Division champions will get a chance to close the series Saturday on home ice.
04/24 10:52:36 ET