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Avalanche shoot for 2-0 lead vs. Wild
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche pulled off a comeback victory in their first playoff game since 2010 and the Central Division champions hope to take a 2-0 series lead when they host the Minnesota Wild in Saturday's Game 2 from the Pepsi Center.
Paul Stastny was the hero for the Avalanche in Thursday's opener, scoring with 13.4 seconds left in the third period to knot the score at 4-4 and then tallying the game-winner at 7:27 of overtime.
The 5-4 decision was the first victory in the postseason for Colorado since taking Game 3 of a first-round series against San Jose on April 18, 2010. The Avs lost that set in six games and haven't won a postseason series since beating Minnesota in the opening round of the 2008 playoffs.
Meanwhile, Minnesota, which lost to Chicago in the opening round last spring, hasn't won a playoff series since beating Vancouver in the 2003 Western Conference semifinals.
Colorado claimed its first division title since 2003 this season and is the second seed in the West. After Thursday's win, the Avalanche are now 5-0-1 against the Wild since the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
The comeback triumph in Game 1 also marked Patrick Roy's first playoff win as an NHL head coach. Of course, the legendary goaltender won four Stanley Cup titles in his playing days, including two with Colorado in 1996 and 2001.
With his team trailing 4-3 late in regulation, Roy made a bold decision to pull goaltender Semyon Varlamov in favor of the extra attacker with 3:01 remaining in the third. The early pull paid off with Stastny's tying goal, but not before Avs defenseman Erik Johnson made a terrific hustle play to prevent an empty-net score that could have clinched the win for Minnesota.
The Wild had a chance to extend their lead to two goals with Varlamov on the bench. Minnesota forward Erik Haula cleared the puck the length of the ice and the disc was headed for the net before Johnson hustled down and swept it away mere inches from the goal line.
His play paid off a bit later as the Avalanche peppered Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov with shots late in regulation and finally got one through. Holding the puck behind the net, Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon sent a pass to the left point where Johnson blasted a shot with Stastny putting home the rebound under the crossbar from the right side to send the game to overtime.
"It's just like every goal, there's four or five guys that make it happen," said Stastny. "There was so much spin on that shot I didn't even see it go in."
On Stastny's OT winner, Colorado's Tyson Barrie kept the puck in at the left point and was able to elude Minnesota forward Jason Pominville before pushing the puck to the low left side. From there, MacKinnon picked up the puck and skated around the right side where his pass was one-timed in by Stastny for the win.
"We are confident in ourselves and we always play to win," said Stastny. "It's just a bit different pace out there, there's a lot more grinding and a lot more tedious. We have to get our rest and get ready for Saturday."
Jamie McGinn and Ryan O'Reilly each posted a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, who are in the playoffs after a three-season absence. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog also had a goal in his postseason debut.
Varlamov made 29 saves for Colorado to improve his career postseason record to 11-9.
The Avs played Game 1 without star forward Matt Duchene (knee) and defenseman John Mitchell (concussion). Both players will miss Game 2 as well.
Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter, Kyle Brodziak and Haula scored for the Wild, who are back in the playoffs for a second straight season after missing out four straight years.
Zach Parise had two assists and Bryzgalov stopped 26 shots for Minnesota, which claimed the top wild card spot in the Western Conference.
"I think despite the outcome of the game we did a lot of good things out there tonight," said Parise. "We made some mistakes in the third that resulted in the puck being in our net, and it cost us."
The Wild hope to pick up a win Saturday so it can head back to St. Paul with the series tied 1-1. Minnesota is hosting Games 3 and 4, with the next meeting scheduled for Monday at Xcel Energy Center.
This is the third all-time playoff meeting between the clubs. The Wild won a 2003 conference quarterfinals matchup in seven games, while the Avalanche knocked off Minnesota in six games during the same round in 2008.
04/19 10:58:47 ET