The Wild must move on. Must-win Game 6 Monday night at 8 at the X.
That’s why Mike Yeo absolutely took the right tack in his postgame presser after the Wild’s back-breaking 4-3 overtime loss tonight in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Nathan MacKinnon, held to no points and three shots in Games 3 and 4, capped another 3-point night by becoming the second-youngest player in NHL history (18 years, 237 days) to score a playoff OT winner (Don Gallinger was 17 years, 339 days when he scored an OT winner for Boston on March 21, 1943 against Montreal.) He now has 10 points in three home games.
The Wild coach could have come in screaming and yelling about Paul Stastny looking offside (eerily for the second time this season against the Wild on a Colorado goal), this time leading to P.A. Parenteau’s tying goal with 1:14 left to force overtime.
Picture courtesy of John Moulson on Twitter (@johncanref)
He could have pointed out how Gabriel Landeskog, after holding Mikko Koivu’s stick for an eternity, jumped on Koivu’s back and began swinging away and somehow the faster, more skilled Avs get the benefit of yet another 4-on-4 in the series and score to make it 2-1 in the second.
He could have pointed out how Brad Meier watched every moment of Cody McLeod charging to the Wild bench to hit Matt Moulson from behind without the puck late in the second and somehow the ref gives the Avs a power play after Charlie Coyle goes in to defend Moulson (Coyle and McLeod were battling in the zone moments before, and maybe Meier felt he should have called Coyle, who was no doubt the more aggressive of the two, there).
And Yeo could have complained how Coyle was held by Landeskog before the tying goal in the neutral zone. That kept Coyle from getting to a loose puck and maybe an empty-netter (although, to be fair, the Wild was given a gift of a power play with 4:33 left when Landeskog snow-showered Darcy Kuemper and Minnesota failed to make it 4-2).
But Yeo, knowing that the Wild better erase its mind and focus on Monday, did none of that. His skin was red. His eyes looked fiery, but he walked the tight-rope well.
“To sit here and dwell on [the missed offside], I don’t think it’s going to do us any good,” Yeo said. “Obviously, frustrating, obviously disappointing, but bottom line is it’s not going to do us any good.
Yeo continued, “We know what’s ahead of us here. We knew coming in that we’re playing a team that won the division, a team that is an extremely skilled group. Never once did we think things were going to be easy. So the task at hand now is pretty simple. We go and play the same way we did at home [in Games 3 and 4].”
On the dubious officiating, Yeo said, “I would say that we’re due for, I’ll say, I don’t want to say luck, but we’re due for some stuff here to go our way a little bit. I’m not going to dwell on what could have been’s. This is playoff hockey. You get highs and you get lows and it’s how you deal with it. Hey, listen, we’ve got an opportunity to go home in front of our crowd and win a hockey game to push to a Game 7.”
Home teams are 17-3 now in the Western Conference playoffs and the Wild knows it must not only win Game 6, but if it’s going to win this series, it better break that trend.
It certainly looked like the Wild was on its way when Zach Parise and Kyle Brodziak scored 1:51 apart early in the third period to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead.
Parise was bottled up pretty good before, but Pominville fed him for a beauty of a shot and Parise’s first goal of the series. Soon after, the Wild’s fourth line put forth a suffocating forecheck. Jan Hejda, dead tired, coughed up the puck to Jared Spurgeon and moments later Brodziak, who had a tough Games 1 and 2 and was scratched because of it in Game 3, scored. Dany Heatley picked up his second assist of the night (he assisted on Matt Moulson’s first goal of the series in the second).
But then, the tying goal. Just like Game 1, Patrick Roy pulled Semyon Varlamov early, this time inside less than 2 ½ left, and for the third time in the series, the Wild couldn’t find an empty-netter. That cost them with the Parenteau tying goal.
“It was offside and they missed a call and it's a damn shame,” bristled Ryan Suter.
Added Zach Parise, “The play, just the way it developed, something about it didn’t feel right. It felt like they had too much of a step on the play. But I didn’t know that for sure until we came in here and somebody said it.”
How does the Wild respond to such a crushing loss? “Same way we did last time,” Parise said. “At home, we said we had to win one here. It wasn’t this one, so it’s got to be Game 7. It’s another one it felt like we had a chance to win it. It just didn’t happen.”
The questionable offside call was a bang-bang play. Linesman Pierre Racicot, a veteran and considered one of the best linesmen (several Cup Finals), had MacKinnon right on top of him and got bent, so it was a very difficult call.
“You can’t point fingers,” Brodziak said. “That’s part of the game. There’s going to be breaks that you get, that you don’t get. That’s the way hockey goes. Keep playing hard. Try not to worry about little things. If you’re focusing on the right things, usually at the end of the day these things even up.”
In overtime, Moulson had 3 great chances to score his first shift. He couldn't. It just didn't feel right after that - just like game 1 last year when Zucker hit the post and game 1 this year when Pominville hit the post. The Wild gave up the losing goal soon after in both.
It was a fun hockey game to watch (well, like all these late starts, it's almost impossible to watch the third because you're punching the keyboard) and Colorado's top line had a lot more offensive zone time and MacKinnon again made the Wild pay.
Here’s Patrick Roy’s postgame quotes:
On If It Is Hard To Believe That Nathan MacKinnon Is Only 18 Years Old: “I don’t think we need to check, we knew when we drafted him what kind of player we were drafting, and he had a solid game again tonight. Their line moved the puck well, and that was a big goal for us, big goal. The save of the night was by (Colorado D Nick) Holden—he made a really good save on that (Minnesota LW Matt Moulson’s shot in overtime) before we got the puck back and went on the other end.”
On The Whirlwind Of Emotions After Scoring Another Late Goal To Force Overtime And Winning It In OT: “It was hard to remain calm after the call. But, I looked at the clock and thought we’d have two minutes and 30 some seconds and we had to kill that one—that was a huge kill. Penalty killing was, without a doubt, outstanding for us tonight. Guys sacrificed their body, blocked shots—I was very happy with them. They gave us a chance to win this game.”
On If Tonight Reminded Him Of Game 1 In The Series: “No, I liked our game—I thought we played a good game. We made a few adjustments and I thought our guys reacted well to them. I thought we were sharp early on getting the puck out of our zone. I thought offensively we had a few good chances. Our power play moved the puck well as well, we finally had some chances—I think we’re going in the right direction. I thought it was very positive.”
On If The Avalanche Can Carry The Momentum From Tonight Into Game 6: “We had two looks in games over there. We know what’s going to happen over there, we just have to play like we did tonight. If we play that way, I really believe that it’s going to be a good game. I can say one thing, our fans had a heck of a show tonight, and hopefully they’re going to give another one over there as well. It’s a team that is playing very well, but I was extremely happy to see how resilient we were again tonight—down a goal, we never panicked, we stayed calm, waited for our opportunity and it happened.”
Roy said there is a chance Matt Duchene plays Game 6.
Here are some Colorado quotes, courtesy of correspondent Michael Kelly:
(on goal) Pauly forced the puck down in their end, Landy got it on the half-wall and I was screaming for it. Definitely a good play by him. Little saucer pass to my blade and I found the top corner.
(tying goal) That was all Pauly. He made the whole play happen.
(pulling goalie again) We believed, even when we got that penalty with four minutes left. Usually you get a warning for that. It was important for us to believe and stay confident. We stuck with the game plan.
(how do you keep doing it) We don’t want to be on this emotional rollercoaster. We wanted to hold that 2-1 lead the whole third period. It’s cool to comeback but we want to hold that lead.
(on MacKinnon) The kid’s special. The sky’s the limit for this kid. I know it’s cliché to say but it’s pretty impressive to see. They tried to shut him down all night, they tried to shut him down in Minny and he got a huge goal for us. On our second goal he made an unbelievable play. This is the kid we want on our side.
(your goal) It’s a great feeling. I knew Pauly likes to put those pucks in front of the net. He’s a pretty good passer so I just came in. I knew he was going to make a play and it was right on my tape. We’ll take it, it’s a huge goal for our team. After they scored two bang-bang goals it kind of deflated us but we stuck with it and it’s the sign of a team that wants to win.
(doing it again) It’s a resilient group. It’s a group that doesn’t give up. We’re pretty confident. When it happens a couple of times you know you can do it. We have the skills and the patience to do it.
(on tying goal) I knew when I shot it both their D were on the outside so I just threw it in front soft. P.A., the game he played all night was unbelievable and he was just at the right spot and was rewarded. We just rolled with it. We get that momentum and we know we’re going to win.
You’re not going to win 1-0, 2-1. Sometimes you do but you know they’re going to keep coming. We had a big kill with four minutes left and Patty pulls the goalie.
(MacKinnon) That one he just backed the D off. He could have taken it himself, but he drops it and Benny shoots it and Holdy tips it. In overtime Landy and Willy make a good play.
We’ve had our backs against the wall numerous times. When you do it once, you do it twice and three and four times it’s like teams, they start shaking a little bit, they get nervous once they’re up a goal. It’s almost mental. We believe in ourselves more when we’re down a goal. It’s exciting to be a part of. It’s not something we want to make a habit of doing.
That’s it for me. Early flight. I’ll talk to you after Sunday’s Wild availability. I’ll also be on Rosen’s Sports Sunday on, well, Sunday night on WCCO.