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Charlie Coyle shot the puck past Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov for a goal in the second period.

Photos by CARLOS GONZALEZ • cgonzalez@startribune.com,

Wild dominates, then holds on to even series with Avalanche

  • Article by: Michael Russo
  • Star Tribune
  • April 25, 2014 - 12:27 PM

That’s why Wild coach Mike Yeo threw Game 3’s hero onto the ice with a minute left Thursday night with the Wild frantically trying to kill off a 6-on-4 Colorado Avalanche power play.

Granlund, who already had assisted on a goal, drawn three penalties and won 67 percent of his faceoffs in Game 4, capped everything by throwing his body into three Erik Johnson bullets. The last of Granlund’s gutsy blocked shots came with four seconds left and helped the Wild pull off a 2-1 victory to send the Western Conference quarterfinals back to Denver knotted at two games apiece.

“You try to do all you can for the win,” said Granlund, who blocked one of the three shots without his stick. “Every guy in this locker room would do that. It’s all about desperation.”

In dominant fashion, the Wild responded to the Avalanche winning Games 1 and 2 at home by pulling off a home sweep of its own.

“It’s kind of like tennis to hold your serve here,” said center Erik Haula, a key reason the Wild went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill and held young star Nathan MacKinnon to no shots. “We were able to do that, and now hopefully we get a chance to break theirs.”

With the series suddenly a best-of-three with Game 5 and potentially Game 7 in Denver, Zach Parise said, “One way or another, if we want to win this series, we’ve got to win a road game.”

For the second consecutive game at an electric Xcel Energy Center, the Wild tilted the ice for nearly 60 minutes Semyon Varlamov’s way. For the second consecutive game, Varlamov — and Varlamov alone — prevented the Avalanche from being routed.

In the third period, Wild fans, the 19,396 who had been ‘‘oohing’’ and “ahhing’’ all game, tried to help the Wild by chanting, “Sieve, Sieve, Sieve,” at Varlamov.

One night after firing 46 shots at Varlamov in a 1-0 overtime victory, the Wild outshot the Avalanche 32-12. The 12 shots against set a Wild playoff record.

“You don’t see that too often,” forward Jason Pominville said. “It was a complete team effort. Guys were paying a price.”

Nobody bigger than Granlund, who exhilarated fans three nights earlier with his scintillating overtime winner. After Haula, Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon killed off the first minute of Jonas Brodin’s minor, Granlund, Parise, Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser came out for the final minute.

At one point Granlund, who refused to flee shooting lanes, lost his stick.

“You just want to throw him one,” said Suter, who stressfully watched from the bench. “That was impressive. That spoke to the way he played all game, the way all our guys played all night.”

When that final horn blared, the euphoric fans erupted.

“We’ve had some exciting games since I’ve been here in this building, but I’ve never heard anything like that tonight,” Yeo said of the crowd.

In the two games in Minnesota, the Wild outshot the Avalanche 78-34. When Ryan O’Reilly scored Colorado’s lone goal with 6:35 left in the second, it was the Avs’ seventh shot of the game. They didn’t get another for the next 14 minutes.

The Wild got goals from Spurgeon and Charlie Coyle, and Darcy Kuemper had to make only 11  saves for his second consecutive victory.

The first period looked like a 20-minute power play. Just like Monday’s Game 3, the Wild was first to every puck, won every battle and forced turnover after turnover. Monday, the Wild took a franchise-record 22 shots in the opening 20 minutes. This time, the first-period shot count was 14-3.

The big difference this time is the Wild’s persistent pressure earned a 1-0 lead 3:47 in — rather than 65:08 in — on Spurgeon’s first career playoff goal. Coyle’s third goal of the series was his first career playoff power-play goal and winning goal.

“We did what we wanted to do,” Parise said. “After two pretty disappointing games in Denver, you want to come back and protect your own home ice. Now we’ve got to win on the road.”





 

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