NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, April 30th (All times Eastern)
Minnesota Wild (3-3) at Colorado Avalanche (3-3), 9:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - A decisive seventh game is on tap Wednesday in the Mile High City, as the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild meet one last time to determine who gets to move on in the playoffs.
The Avalanche hope the trend of home teams winning games in this series extends to tonight's meeting at the Pepsi Center. Colorado is 3-0 in Denver in this Western Conference quarterfinal matchup, while the Wild won all three of their home tests at Xcel Energy Center.
The winner of this evening's game moves on to face the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the next round. The Blackhawks eliminated the St. Louis Blues in six games on Sunday.
Minnesota won its final home game of the series on Monday to force tonight's do-or-die battle. The Wild won Game 6 by a 5-2 score, but the contest was much closer than the final count indicated.
The teams were knotted at 2-2 following 40 minutes of play, but Wild captain Zach Parise's second goal of the game broke the deadlock with 6:29 remaining in the third period. Parise had four points on two goals and two assists in Game 6 to help lead his club to this evening's decisive battle.
Following Parise's tie-breaking goal. Minnesota scored twice on an empty net after Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pulled Semyon Varlamov early again -- a strategy that had worked twice earlier in the series.
"It was another tough one going into the third period in a game we needed to win," said Parise. "There was a lot on the line for us and I thought for the most part we played a pretty solid game and dictated a lot of the play."
Parise had Avs defenseman Erik Johnson on his back near the crease when he got his stick on Mikko Koivu's shot from the left boards just inside the blue line to tip it past Varlamov for the game-winner.
The Wild rebounded from Saturday's tough Game 5 loss, when the Avs tied the game after Varlamov came out with 2:22 left in regulation. Nathan MacKinnon's goal 3:27 into overtime gave Colorado a 4-3 win, but there was no such magic on Monday.
"It sucks to lose but we don't have any time to hang our heads," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog. "There's no time for us to feel sorry for ourselves. It's Game 7 at home and it doesn't get any better than that."
Varlamov skated off with 2:44 left in this one, but Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella scored into the empty net to seal the win for Minnesota.
Mikael Granlund also had a goal and Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves, only facing three shots in the third period.
Paul Stastny and Nick Holden scored for the Central Division-champion Avs, both off passes from Ryan O'Reilly, and Varlamov stopped 18 shots.
Star center Matt Duchene returned for Colorado after missing a month with a knee injury and had an assist in nearly 19 minutes of ice time.
"It's all or nothing now," said Duchene. "Win or go home and I think it's a great opportunity for a lot of us in here, a great experience."
The Colorado franchise, which was formerly known as the Quebec Nordiques, is 6-6 all-time in Game 7s, but 0-1 in this situation when facing the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota posted a 3-2 overtime win against the Avs on April 22, 2003 to help the sixth-seeded Wild upset Colorado in seven games.
The only other Game 7 in Wild history came later in the 2003 playoffs, when Minnesota beat the Canucks in Vancouver on May 8.
This will be Roy's first Game 7 behind the bench, but the former star goaltender was involved in 13 Game 7s during his Hall of Fame playing career, tying Scott Stevens for the most in league history.
04/30 10:36:29 ET