Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Wild likely to make changes, but Mike Yeo not tipping hand yet

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 20, 2014 - 4:19 PM

Wild gathered at the X this afternoon for video work and a meeting, and then a handful of players went on the ice for a little practice.

Wild returns home Monday night (6 p.m. CT) with the goal of trying to get back into this series with the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are 12-0 all-time when they’re up 2-0 in a series, … so they’re due.

Coach Mike Yeo wasn’t tipping his hand as far as lineup changes (Justin Fontaine, Dany Heatley and Jon Blum having been the scratches; Wild is 0-3 since Blum came out of the lineup for banged-up Clayton Stoner) or the starting goaltender. Let’s be honest: Darcy Kuemper is likely going to make his first career playoff start after stopping all 14 shots in relief of Ilya Bryzgalov in Saturday’s Game 2 defeat in Denver.

It was his first action since leaving the morning skate March 31. Matt Cooke accidentally let the cat out of the bag today with reporters: Kuemper suffered a concussion in practice – perhaps March 30 in Phoenix, which could explain why I never saw him get hurt (my flight to L.A. was right as the Wild hit the ice the day after its win at Phoenix).

Bryzgalov has allowed 16 goals in the past four starts and was pulled in two of them.

“If I do get the start, I'm really excited,” Kuemper said. “It's a big game for the team and I'm going to do my part and I’m sure everyone else is going to do their part to try to come up with a win.”

If the Wild’s going to get back in this series, it must neutralize the Gabriel Landeskog-Paul Stastny-Nathan MacKinnon line. The trio combined for 10 points last night.

From the NHL’s morning PR email:

MacKinnon collected three assists in his postseason debut in Game 1. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his seven points (1-6—7) match an NHL record for points in the first two games of a playoff career, tying Odie Cleghorn (MTL: 1919) and Barry Pederson (BOS: 1982).
 * MacKinnon also became the third 18-year-old in Stanley Cup Playoffs history to post a four-point game, joining Pierre Turgeon (BUF: April 10, 1988) and Trevor Linden (VAN: April 9, 1989). The record for points by an 18-year-old in one postseason is 13, set by Jaromir Jagr in 1991 (PIT: 3-10—13 in 24 GP).
 * At 18 years, 228 days, MacKinnon became the youngest player in Avalanche/Nordiques history to score a playoff goal, doing so in highlight-reel fashion. He also became the sixth-youngest player since 1979 to record a goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs: 
YOUNGEST PLAYERS TO SCORE IN POSTSEASON, SINCE 1979
1. Jordan Staal, PIT – 18 years, 213 days
2. Brian Bellows, MIN – 18 years, 217 days
3. Pierre Turgeon, BUF – 18 years, 222 days
4. Patrick Marleau, SJ – 18 years, 224 days
5. Martin Lapointe, DET – 18 years, 227 days
6. Nathan MacKinnon, COL – 18 years, 228 days
 * Stastny now has 3-4—7 through the first two games of the series. He had 3-5—8 in 15 career postseason appearances entering 2013-14.
 * At 21 years, 147 days, Landeskog became the youngest player in Avalanche/Nordiques history to record a multi-goal playoff game. Alex Tanguay (21 years, 200 days) previously held the mark, posting 2-1—3, including the game-winning goal, in the Avalanche’s Game 7 victory over the Devils in the 2001 Stanley Cup Final.
 

For the first time in this series, Yeo will have last change because the team’s coming home.

One would think the Wild will assemble a third line of Matt Cooke-Erik Haula-Nino Niederreiter and give them the task of going up against Colorado’s top line.

Yeo made clear though that he believes that when the Wild’s playing its game, any line and any center can go against the Avs’ top line.

But, Yeo said, the Wild hasn’t been on top of its game.

The Wild must be better with the puck. Players are turning pucks over, and the Avs are exploding out of the zone, which puts Wild defenders on its heels. As Ryan Suter, no forward likes to skate backwards, but the Wild spent the second period skating backward Saturday.

“We’ve got to get more aggressive in our mentality because there’s too much gap, and we’re giving them too much ice,” Yeo said. “We have to do a better job of making sure they’re coming through tight layers.”

On MacKinnon, Yeo said, “He’s playing really well right now, we’ve played against some other great players this year too and we’ve done the job against them. It’s just a matter of resetting and getting back to our game. Getting home, I think, will give us that opportunity.

I wonder if the Wild tried to stick Haula on MacKinnon like a glove. He’s the only Wild forward who can maybe keep up with the speedster. Cooke said, “Obviously I want that [Colorado top line] matchup for me and for my line and for our team. It’s tough when you’re on the road. We’re going to get the last change and if that’s the way that coach wants to go, then I’ll be ready.”

Koivu, who was caught flat-footed on the first three goals Saturday, said, “We recognize the challenge. We’re excited to be home. We’re excited for tomorrow’s game. We know we need to play better. As a team, there’s things we need to do better. We recognize that and that’s our goal.

“We just have to take advantage of coming home and playing in front of our fans and in our building.”

Avs are landing about now. They didn’t practice. Patrick Roy did say Matt Duchene is on the trip and will begin skating Monday. Talk to you Monday. I’ll be on KFAN at 9:15 a.m. and on Fox Sports North before and during Game 3.

Wild returns to St. Paul reeling, down 2-0 to Colorado Avalanche

Posted by: Michael Russo under On the road, Wild game coverage Updated: April 20, 2014 - 8:44 AM

The Wild may rue the day it coughed up Game 1. You only get so many kicks at the can when you outplay a better opponent, have them on the ropes and hand them the game.

Tonight’s Game 2 recipe against the Avs: good start by the Wild, massive defensive and neutral-zone breakdowns, another dominant night by Colorado’s first line and Darcy Kuemper’s first playoff appearance.

Ilya Bryzgalov was chased after allowing three goals on 14 shots through 31:59. Hardly all his fault. He was playing behind an exposed defense and coach Mike Yeo tried to change the momentum of the game. But Kuemper came in, stopped all 14 shots he saw and will almost certainly start Monday’s Game 3 after tonight’s 4-2 loss to the Avs.

Nathan MacKinnon, the 18-year-old star, scored his first career playoff goal and had three assists one game after having three assists in his playoff debut. He is the fourth player in NHL history with 3-plus points in each of his first two career playoff games (Odie Cleghorn, Newsy Lalonde, Bobby Smith).

MacKinnon’s seven points ties the NHL record for most points in the first two playoff games of an NHL career: Odie Cleghorn in 1918-19 and Barry Pederson with Boston in 1981-82. He is the second-youngest player to record four points in a playoff game at 18 years, 230 days…Pierre Turgeon was 18 years, 226 days when he had four points on April 10, 1988 vs. Boston. He is the third 18-year old in NHL history to record a four-point game in the postseason (Turgeon twice in 1988 and Trevor Linden in 1989).

“Obviously I still feel like a kid,” he said. “I’m only 18 still and I’m not trying to grow up too fast. I’m trying to enjoy this. I’m not the only young guy on the team.”

Paul Stastny, one game after scoring the tying goal with 13.4 seconds left and the OT winner, scored an empty-net goal and three assists and Gabriel Landeskog, the youngest captain in the NHL at age 21, scored two goals. So, 10 points by the top line.

MacKinnon and Stastny each have seven points in the series and Landeskog three goals – three giant reasons why the Wild flew home to Minnesota tonight down 2 games to none in this best-of-seven series. The Avalanche was a league-best 26-11-4 on the road this season. Teams that go up 2-0 in a best-of-seven playoff series hold an all-time record of 287-45 (86.4%).

Charlie Coyle gave the Wild a 1-0 lead 4:18 in with his second goal of the series. But 2:02 later, MacKinnon scored his first career playoff goal after a tremendous flash of speed. He took Stastny’s pass at center-ice and erupted like few other NHLers can.

Jared Spurgeon, who had a poor night, and Nate Prosser were put on their heels in a gigantic way, and once MacKinnon did a crossover and cut to his right, Spurgeon got tangled, toppled over and MacKinnon let loose a howitzer past Bryzgalov’s blocker.

In the second period, Jonas Brodin committed an offensive-zone turnover and Mikko Koivu got caught flat-footed in the neutral zone. With Brodin and Ryan Suter backing up as MacKinnon flew, MacKinnon dropped a pass to Landeskog for the snipe over Bryzgalov’s glove.

Landeskog’s second goal also came after Koivu was caught standing still in the neutral zone. MacKinnon flew past both times.

MacKinnon flew into the Wild end and wheeled easily around Spurgeon to create a 3-on-1 down low. Paul Stastny made a behind-the back pass to Landeskog, who buried his third goal of the series into an open net.

“Our forwards have to stop skating backward in the neutral zone,” Zach Parise said. “We get flat-footed, you try to jump at them and they go right around us. We have to stop doing that.”

Mikko Koivu was caught flat-footed in the neutral zone on Landeskog's two goals and Ole'ed in the neutral zone on MacKinnon's goal. Parise was late on the backcheck on both of Landeskog's goals. 

The Avalanche barely had the puck and barely got a sniff of the offensive zone in the first 10 minutes, but that turned in the last half. The Avalanche began to pressure, force some icings, won some draws and Bryzgalov responded with a number of clutch saves late to keep the Wild in the game.

But things imploded in the second. Bryzgalov has now allowed 16 goals in four games.

Remember, Avs coach Patrick Roy made clear before the series started that the Avs have “a lot of info” on Bryzgalov. Avs goalie coach Francois Allaire was Bryzgalov’s goalie coach once upon a time in Anaheim, and Avs backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the Ducks’ No. 1 at the time. First goal, blocker side. Second goal, upstairs again glove side.

Here’s the Bryzgalov Q and A postgame:

(What did you see from them and their top line) I don’t know what to say. What do you mean?

(Their top line scored 3 against you. What did you see from them?) They score goals on the rush ...

(Will you feel ready if they come back to you at some point?) All I can is practice and wait. I don’t know.

(You shared a quick moment with Kuemper in locker room. What did you tell him?) I just tell him great job.

(Concerned about your game?) What exactly do you mean?

(You’ve had some tough games here lately. Concern you at all) Not really. Not really.

Kuemper said, “Obviously for me to go in, something had to go wrong. Obviously we’d have to be down or a situation like that. But I was ready. That’s why I was back in the lineup because if they needed me, I was ready to go.”

(any rust?) “No, I’ve gotten a lot of practice time lately. The rust is gone and I feel on top of my game.”

(Just expect to start Monday) “Yeah, I’ll have to wait and hear but I hope so. This is playoff hockey. You want to play. I felt good so have to carry that over into the next game.”

Add about 15 seconds of pause before Bryz answered after each question and you'll imagine how fun that back and forth was. We may have seen the last of him. 

The Wild flipped struggling Spurgeon and Brodin on the first and second pairs. Brodin is so overmatched this season. His turnover led to the second goal and he's getting tossed around like a rag doll. MacKinnon springs away from him en route to Game 1 winner and just look at how he was outmuscled by MacKinnon on the empty-netter.

On Spurgeon, Yeo wouldn’t dissect him but said, “He’s a guy who’s bounced back continually. If he wasn’t at his best tonight, I’m confident he will be next game. That’s the kind of character he is, the kind of player he is. This is not about one guy. It’s about our team.”

 In the second period, Nino Niederreiter and Matt Moulson switched lines. In the third, Yeo reunited the Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville line and a Moulson-Koivu-Coyle line.

But the Wild better figure out a way to slow the Avs down in the neutral zone, defend better, or this thing will end soon.

Koivu, Suter and Parise, whom Yeo talked to on the bench after the game (Yeo said the message was between the coach and his captains), all said they’re skating backwards too much, getting caught flat-footed, etc. The defensemen struggled, but Yeo said that’s because they’re making a lot of mistakes in front of them.

Yeo said it’s on the coaches to figure out a way to neutralize Colorado’s top line.

How does the Wild rebound?

“Part of it is being at home,” Yeo said. “Making things a little bit more uncomfortable for them. Part of it is being at home, getting matchups, we’ll be looking to get. And part of it is we still can be better in our game. We’ve been able to shut down really good players all year long. For me, I think you see we’re backing up a little bit too much as far as I’m concerned. I think we’re allowing them to build speed, so we’ve got to a better job with that.

“Part of it is being better in our system, being tighter in our system, being a little bit more in their face when they touch the puck. We’re giving time and space. We want to make sure we’re taking it away. Part of it is also angles. I think we got caught flat footed. That’s usually something we do a better job of.”

Again, how does the Wild rebound?

“You’ve got to get the next one,” Suter said. “That has to be the mindset. You can’t get frustrated. We didn’t play the way we were capable. They played well. They played really well. We can be better.”

Yeo said, “We should get excited about that opportunity to play in front of our fans. Our building is going to be rocking. They did what they were supposed to do. We’ve got to go take care of our business.”

Wild's building will be rocking all right. "SHOOOOOT!"  

Discouraging two games in Denver. Again a reminder how the Avs catapulted past the Wild from a young talent standpoint by stinking for a few years. They're doing this without Matt Duchene. I'm not sure how the Wild catches up. By signing another 30-something free agent? The Wild's certainly proved it's not big enough or fast enough or skilled enough. 

That's it. Very, very early flight so I can get back for availability. Talk to you Sunday.

Wild aims to even up first-round series with Colorado

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild pregame skate Updated: April 19, 2014 - 2:12 PM

The Wild will be looking to even up this best-of-7 series tonight with the Colorado Avalanche.

“There’s a big difference between 1-1 and 2-0,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said astutely this morning. “And our road play has been good all year,” so … the Wild better do its darnedest to try to even this thing up tonight.

Said Bloomington native Erik Johnson, “We know how tough that building is to play in (the X), so we want to wrap up home-ice [advantage] tonight.”

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy expects the Wild to play well and hard.

“It’s only a game. That’s all we have earned so far,” Roy said. “I expect Minny to be ready for us and give a good push, especially the start of the game. I think the start of the game will be very important for us. We’re going to have to play our best hockey in order to beat these guys.”

No lineup changes for Colorado, Roy said. He also said he expects Matt Duchene to be out for the series. The star center isn’t even skating yet. Similarly, third-line center John Mitchell (concussion) isn’t even riding the bike yet, Roy said.

For the Wild, Darcy Kuemper said the rust is off and he will back up Ilya Bryzgalov tonight. Bryzgalov wasn’t bad the other night, but he certainly was sloppy and he has given up 13 goals in the past three games. With Kuemper back, there’s suddenly some insurance if Bryzgalov falters.

Kuemper said the injury he had occurred a few days before the March 31 morning skate in L.A. and it just progressively worse. That’s why he had to leave the skate early. He joked that it was a “body” injury when I asked if it was upper, mid or lower.

As of now, looks like the same Wild lineup because Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine, suspended Mike Rupp and Keith Ballard got bagged after the optional pregame skate with John Curry.

Couple storylines tonight:

-- There were two 4-on-4’s in Game 1. Colorado benefited from one with a goal and does benefit by them because it’s faster and more skilled than the Wild.

The Wild also believes it got the short end of both of them.

“We don’t want to get in there. But you take enough cross-checks in the back, and it is tough. I think it’s a tactic that they’re trying to deploy. No question, when they’re down, of course they want to play 4-on-4 and open up a little bit more ice. We want to play hard between the whistles. Hopefully the people that are calling the game are aware of that and judging it the right way.”

In other words, Yeo hopes the new set of refs tonight is aware of what the Avs are trying to do. If this is a tactic by Colorado, it’s a smart one because the Avs know it’s natural that officials don’t want to put one team down a man after a scrum, so they often take two.

“We’re going to keep playing in your face hockey and as this goes on, we have to make sure we keep getting harder,” Yeo said. “We want to do it between the whistles. If they cross-check us, we don’t have to do anything back. We can look them in the eye and hopefully there comes a point where we can start getting on the power play.”

Roy said, “We certainly don’t mind the 4-on-4, that’s for sure. We like our speed.” But he added, “We try to get away from the scrums. It’s not a good thing for the game of hockey. I know it’s a good for players to show that they’re in the game. But we rather focus on playing a hard game.”

Speaking of playing a hard game, the Avs did a great job making life difficult on Jonas Brodin and Mikael Granlund especially the other night. They’re two of the Wild’s more diminutive, non-physical players.

Roy brought up how Landeskog’s check on Brodin led to the game’s first goal in Game 1.

“We want to finish our checks. Yes, there’s no doubt about it,” Roy said. “We don’t try to get him out of the ice (injured), but we want to finish our check. I think it’s fair and I think it’s the way the game should be played. And if these guys play big minutes, we want them to play big minutes. The more tired they’re going to be, I think it benefits of us.”

Yeo agrees.

“Physicality is a part of it. This is what makes this game great as far as I’m concerned. This time of year especially, you see guys who quite often don’t play a physical game … doing it. Part of being tough and part of being a winner is being able to take a hit to make a play.”

So Yeo says not only does the Wild have to do that to Colorado’s top players, Brodin and Granlund must do a better job protecting themselves. For instance, how often do you ever see Ryan Suter get blown up? It doesn’t happen.

On puck retrievals, Brodin must do a better job, Yeo said, “not only so you’re not getting run through the boards and running the risk of getting hurt, but also because that’s the right play to give you a chance to execute. If you’re not protecting the puck and not protecting yourself, it’s probably going to lead to a turnover.”

And, that’s what happened before Landeskog’s goal the other night.

Brodin said, “We knew it’s going to be a tough series. They come out hard. It’s their home rink, too. But I think we stood up good to it. You have to see which line you’re playing against. You have to read it. Sometimes you have to protect yourself, sometimes you have to take a hit to make a play.”

I also talked to Granlund and you can hear from him in tomorrow’s paper.

Erik Johnson said the Avs weren’t targeted those two guys specifically. He said it’s the playoffs and you want to set a physical tone and “in the regular season, we’re not exactly known as the most physical team.”

In the playoffs, you finish checks hard “because you want players on both teams to feel it the next day.”

Yeo said the Wild must do a better job being engaged and stronger in battles. He noted how on three of Colorado’s goals the other night, the Wild had guys on the ice.

“We have to be stronger in those situations,” Yeo said (see Kyle Brodziak on the fourth and fifth goals).

The Wild’s PK went 4 for 4 the other night against one of the NHL’s most lethal power plays.

“I have to give them credit,” Roy said. “They play well. They play a low box. We have to take more shots from up top. That’s something we’ll consider. They block a lot of shots, they had great stick. I mean, they’re well-coached. Positioning is really good. We’ll have to maybe do it a little more the hard way,” as in get shots through and jump on rebounds.

Huge game tonight that can determine this series. Teams that go up 2-0 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 287-45 (86.4%).

Talk to ya tonight. I can’t even convey how hellacious my deadline is for 8:30 p.m. games, especially on a Saturday night, so don’t expect a ton of tweeting in the third period.

Wild looking to put Game 1 meltdown in rearview mirror

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild practice Updated: April 18, 2014 - 5:04 PM

Friday’s practice was all about taking the good things from Thursday’s 5-4 Game 1 overtime loss to Colorado and repairing the bad things.

Since I’m a cynical beat writer, let’s focus on the bad things.

1. Managing the puck better

2. Being better in the defensive zone by pressuring more aggressively and cutting off the Avs’ cycle.

3. Being more physical.

4. Uh, managing the puck better.

On points 1 and 4, the only obvious lineup shuffle for Saturday’s Game 2 is third-line center Kyle Brodziak, who was minus-3, and fourth-line center Erik Haula switched spots in practice. Haula will start Saturday’s game between Matt Cooke and Nino Niederreiter, while Brodziak is expected to be between Stephane Veilleux and Cody McCormick.

The Wild could have put Thursday’s game away umpteen different ways – scoring on that power play up 4-2, Mikael Granlund shooting the puck on that one clear as day opportunity, if Erik Johnson didn’t race down Haula’s empty-net try, Jared Spurgeon getting the puck out before Paul Stastny’s tying goal, Jason Pominville’s shot not hitting the post in OT.

“The mistakes that we made were some big ones,” said Spurgeon.

Let’s be honest, though, it’s a game of mistakes but the Wild has Thursday’s game in its hip pocket if Brodziak doesn’t turn over the puck to Ryan O’Reilly before Jamie McGinn cut it to 4-3.

“The third goal was tough for sure,” Brodziak said. “I double-clutched myself and it ended up in the back of the net and was the turning point in the game. You just have to move on. It’s never fun when that happens. The most important thing for everybody and myself is how we respond, how we bounce back. That’s the focus for today.”

Haula scored his first career playoff goal Thursday and played well, but one big reason coach Mike Yeo will put him on the third line is his speed should match up better against Colorado’s speed than Brodziak (particularly Nathan MacKinnon; as I said before the series, I feel is the only Wild player that can track MacKinnon, maybe the fastest player in the NHL, stride for stride). MacKinnon, 18, became the second-youngest player in NHL history to have three points (all assists) in his playoff debut (Pierre Turgeon, 1988).

The Wild’s challenge?

Put this game before them?

“You’re going to face adversity in the playoffs,” Yeo said. “We want to get on a run here and any team that’s going to have any kind of success in the playoffs , you’re going to face adversity.”

Yeo said today’s practice was proof of a loose group.

“I think it would be a lot worse if we were dominated in the game, if we felt like we were badly outplayed. It’s frustrating that we let a game get away from us. But if we won that game, there are no guarantees either. It’s one game. There’s enough positives to take from that game where we should feel good about ourselves. The best part for me is that was a winnable game for us, but I know that we can be better.”

Yeo didn’t like the Wild’s response after Brodziak’s gaffe.

“We’re still leading,” he said. “We have to have a mentality that every play is the difference in a hockey game. I thought we got tight after that. Normally with a one-goal lead, we’re very confident, we’re very strong in our game.”

In the D zone, Yeo said, “I think we had too much respect for them, personally. I look at situations where we’re in D zone and we’re on our heels. Normally we’re on our toes, we’re jumping, we’re pressuring. We always talk about our structure, but it doesn’t mean anything if we’re giving time and space to great players. … I know we can pressure the puck harder, I know that we can take straight lines and go through guys harder,

“We can be more physical on them. There’s no question about that. I don’t believe we made things hard enough on them physical.”

Yeo said also that Jonas Brodin probably should be a little more aware so he’s not peeling himself off the glass every shift. OK, I’m saying that. Not him.

But Yeo said there are times the defensemen go back to retrieve pucks that it doesn’t benefit anybody to go back and get run. Sometimes you’re better off protecting the puck, protecting yourself and waiting for support.

Haula on playing the third line, “I’m just excited to play the game. I don’t worry about where I play. I’m just trying to bring the same kind of effort every night. Whatever the task, whatever the role, I’ll take that challenge. They have a lot of good players. It’s not one line.”

Parise said they worked on some tactical things that needed to be cleaned up today and “upping our intensity level and playing more playoff-style hockey. We did it OK, but not well enough.”

On being more aggressive in the D zone, Parise said, “You’ve got to be careful with skilled guys. You don’t want to overcommit yourself. We can do a better job of stopping the cycle earlier and being a little more physical and pinning them rather than letting them cycle and cycle.”

Parise said life goes on after a loss like Thursday. “You think about it the rest of the night. You don’t have a choice. You’ve got to come in today with a clear mind ready to learn and ready to see how we can be better. Playoffs are never going to go the way you want them to go. The quicker you can move on, not only from losses but wins, too, the better off you’ll be.”

Mikko Koivu also said it was tough to sleep after Thursday’s game, but “it helps when you get out there and get a little sweat. We went through the things that happened last night and now we just have to learn from that and prepare ourselves for Game 2. We did a lot of good things, too. We can’t forget that. We have to be a little sharper.

“It’s not easy. That’ hockey. If it were easy, you’re in the wrong spot. Now it’s all about tomorrow. And we feel pretty good about ourselves and our game. We have to fix the little things.”

Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed 13 goals the past three games. The Wild’s not pinning last night on him, but he has got to be better, too.

Of the loss, Haula said, “Basically, it came down to inches,” referring to Johnson running down his empty-netter attempt and swiping it inches from the goal line.

“I tried to get some elevation so it wouldn’t go for icing and we can get a change. Suddenly, I’m looking and it might go in. Then it doesn’t’ go in, net’s off, scrum going on and I don’t know what the heck’s going on. I think the ref’s made a terrible call there.”

Yeo said the Wild also plans to talk to the series supervisor of officials (Don van Massenhoven) Saturday to try to get a ruling on a few things they were upset about, like Brodziak and Cooke being bowled over by Barrie before Stastny’s winner, why Koivu’s net off the moorings wasn’t a penalty vs. Johnson knocking the net off, why that faceoff was outside the zone as opposed to inside when Johnson started the whole thing and the scrum, in the Wild’s eyes, was at the top of the circle.

Regardless, the Wild gave this game away and it knows it.

“They got goals coming directly off our stick,” Yeo said. “We had the hockey game on our stick last game.”

A big storyline last night was Patrick Roy pulling Semyon Varlamov with 3:01 left. He has done this a few times this year and said today he did this a lot in junior, including in the second period.

Earlier this season, the Avs pulled off the same thing against New Jersey (tied game, won it in overtime). He tried same thing this season against Boston, although it didn’t work and neither team scored.

Roy said every morning skate for the past month the Avs have practiced 6-on-5’s.

He's done it a few times throughout the year, with some success. He pulled Varly with about 2:30 left in New Jersey on Feb. 4, down 1-0 and they tied it and won in OT. Not sure what the time of the goal was.
 
He pulled him against Boston down 2-0 with five minutes left but they didn't score. Neither did the Bruins. 
 

“As a goalie I would love to see my coach doing that,” Roy said. “You want to see the team tying. It doesn’t matter if it happens at 3 minutes or 2 minutes or one minute. It’s just a feeling. I know one day it might bite us, but it’s a longterm thing. If you do it 10 times and you score four goals, it’s 40 percent. It’s pretty big. If you give up one goal, what the heck, let’s keep doing it. I think it gives us momentum, it also forces them to defend. We keep it in their end, they get tired. The longer it lasts the tougher it is for them to make the right plays.

“I never look at statistics. I think sometimes just go with a feeling. If guys have been on the ice for a long time we think it’s a good time. The matchup. I’m looking at this more than anything else. If you have the momentum I’m not afraid to do it early, even if it can backfire.”

By matchup, he means the guys on the ice. He said he considered it with four minutes last night because the Wild had Nate Prosser and Clayton Stoner (third pair) on the ice.

Johnson said he didn’t realize the net was empty until one of the officials told him (that was very nice by the official).

“I didn't realize it until O'Reilly said something when we were out there,” Stastny said. “I looked up and Factor said, 'We're pulling the goalie.' I thought ‘I better win this draw.’”

Most amazing about pulling the goalie with 3:01 left? The six guys on the ice were out there for the final three minutes of the game (obviously there were rests like TV timeouts and the scrum after Johnson’s save on Haula).

“But you know what, they’re standing still,” Roy said. “They had to move side to side because we were up and down. It’s like being on a power play. If you go on a power play you could be out there a minute or minute as a half. If you move the puck well it’s not as demanding than if you have to defend.”

You’ve got to love this guy. Roy does it his way.

Wild gives away Game 1 to the Colorado Avalanche

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild game coverage Updated: April 18, 2014 - 9:03 AM

REVISED

13.4 seconds!

The Wild was 13.4 seconds away from being up 1-0 in this series against Colorado.

Instead, the Wild gave up the tying goal to Paul Stastny with 13.4 left, then another to Stastny in overtime to find itself trailing 1-0 in the series this morning.

Just a brutal loss when you consider the Wild rallied from a 1-0 deficit, recovered from giving up a tying goal in the second and carried a 4-2 lead into the third.

The Wild, as Zach Parise said, was in the driver’s seat. But then, after the Wild killed off a fourth Colorado power play, Jamie McGinn scored nine seconds later.

Why? Kyle Brodziak, under no pressure, coughed up the puck. Brodziak, a minus-3, was the player who had given the Wild a 4-2 lead, scoring 2:04 after Erik Haula scored the go-ahead goal in a well-played, three-goal period by the Wild. Brodziak's goal came off a great forecheck by Nino Niederreiter and Matt Cooke -- the type of forecheck that turned the game around in the second. Haula came off great speed and individual effort.

There were so many “little things” that cost the Wild. Turnovers galore, the biggest coming in the waning seconds when Jared Spurgeon failed to get the puck out. About 20 seconds later, Stastny tied it.

In overtime, Jason Pominville hit the pipe. Remember, in Game 1 last year in Chicago, Jason Zucker hit the post prior to the Blackhawks winning that game. Chicago went on to win the series in five games.

On Colorado’s winning goal, the Wild got pinned in the zone dead tired. Then, not only did they fail to clear a few times, it lost a few board battles. Gabriel Landeskog popped it up top, Tyson Barrie sped away from Pominville, Nathan MacKinnon wheeled away from Jonas Brodin. and after Cooke accidentally tripped up Max Talbot before he slid into Brodziak to take all three out,

I just watched this play again. Barrie skated in the slot after making the pass, undercut Cooke, knocks him to the ice, and then also bowls over Brodziak. No call by either ref on undeniable interference. This happens just as MacKinnon fed a wide-open Stastny for the winner through Ilya Bryzgalov’s wickets.

Ugly.

Ugly because the Wild had so much control of this contest and survived a first period in which Colorado did its best to set a physical tone, especially against Mikael Granlund and Brodin.

The Wild adjusted well in the second, got its forecheck going and seemed to take control.

Even in the third, I never thought the Wild was in prevent mode. It continued to attack. It had 11 shos in the period. But there’s no doubt after Brodziak’s cough-up, the Wild was on its heels, especially in the D zone.

The shame of this game is in the third period, you saw how fast and aggressive and absolutely skilled the Avs forwards were. It would have been gigantic if the Wild could have pulled out this victory.

Now, suddenly, there’s all this doubt. Yeo believes the Wild can pressure more aggressively defensively, and boy, the Wild better because the Avs, especially guys like MacKinnon (three assists in the 18-year-old's playoff debut) showed how much they can roast you with time and space.

Couple other notable things in the game:

-- Bryzgalov gave up five goals on 31 shots. He was hung out to dry at times, and Yeo said this can't be pinned on him. Of course, Yeo's got no other options in net, so he better stand up for his goalie and pray he gets back into the net feeling confident.

--Granlund passing up a shot in the third period after a terrific Pominville setup by forcing a pass with the net empty. Unacceptable.

-- The Wild’s inability to score an empty-net goal despite Patrick Roy making the gutsy move to pull Semyon Varlamov with 3:01 left down by one. Erik Haula came oh-so close when he flipped a puck from the defensive blue line the length of the ice. But Erik Johnson raced it down and pulled it back from within a few inches of a 5-3 Wild lead.

His momentum knocked the net off the moorings AFTER he saved it, so the Wild wouldn’t be awarded a goal there. Since he didn’t deliberately do it, there is no penalty or awarded goal when Cooke had a shot at an empty-net. The whistle had blown. Yes, Mikko Koivu got a delay of game penalty earlier in the game, but the refs ruled that one was deliberate.

The refs also put the faceoff in the neutral zone rather than inside much to the chagrin of the Wild. The belief is it’s because the defensemen just into the fray after Colorado went after Cooke for shooting the puck at Johnson.

The Wild was still upset it didn’t get an explanation on either decision, but again, it sounds like both were the right calls. And the faceoff position made no difference in the game’s outcome.

The Wild better regroup Friday in practice. Talk afterward. I'll be on KFAN at 4:30 p.m.

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