What a difference a week makes. After dropping the first two games of the series in Denver, the Wild returned home and evened the series with a pair of suffocating wins at Xcel Energy Center.
After scoring the game winner in overtime of game 3, Mikael Granlund stole the show once again in game 4. This time it was his defensive prowess as he blocked three shots on net while the Avalanche pressured with a 6-on-4 advantage in the closing seconds of the game.
"You don't try to do too much," said Granlund, who scored the overtime winner in Game 3. "You just try to get in the lanes. That's pretty much all you can do."
The Wild reclaimed the momentum from game 3 early outshooting the Avs 14-3 in the first period and taking a 1-0 lead on Jared Spurgeon’s first playoff goal just 3:47 in to the game. The Wild didn’t need to generate too much offense as they held Colorado to just 12 shots on net the entire contest.
The series shifts back to the Pepsi Center in Denver Saturday night. A place the Wild nearly stole the first game of the series. The feel is much different seven days later as the story after the first two games was the speed of the young Avalance
“It’s going to be our fans now, so it’s up to us to challenge these guys,” said Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy. “Obviously we’re going to need more from some of our forwards and they’re going to have to chip in and be more involved.”
The Wild have outshot the Avalanche 78-34 in the past two games and have seemed to find a way to neutralize the speed of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and the rest of the Avalanche. Can they repeat the performance on the road where Colorado will enjoy the last change when it comes to lineups?
Not lost in the emotion of winning back-to-back games is the superior play of Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Vezina trophy candidate has single handedly kept his team in both road games and has his coach extremely confident despite the recent results.
“I’m looking more at how our goaltender played. He was again very solid,” said Roy. “I thought we did a good job defensively in some ways.”
Despite being peppered with 78 shots, the Wild only scored three goals in the two games.
“It creates a little more tension,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “At the same time, we want the guys to get better as the playoffs go along. When you play in games like that, you get used to playing in moments like that. When the game is on the line, you have to execute, you have to make a play or you have to defend. Whatever the situation calls for and you have to do it when the stakes are that high.”
Game 1: Colorado 5 Minnesota 4 (OT)
Game 2: Colorado 4 Minnesota 2
Game 3: Minnesota 1 Colorado 0 (OT)
Game 4: Minnesota 2 Colorado 1
Game 5: Saturday April 26 at Denver 8:30
Game 6: Monday April 28 at Minnesota 8:30
Game 7: TBD