DENVER – And the goalie carousel keeps on spinning.
Will it ever stop? This is dizzying.
The season-long ride continued to hum along Saturday night as Ilya Bryzgalov got yanked in the second period of a 4-2 loss in Game 2 after being torched for three goals by the run-and-gun Colorado Avalanche.
So long, Bryzgalov, and welcome back, Darcy Kuemper.
“Obviously for me to go in, something had to go wrong,” Kuemper said.
Yes, it sure did.
Bryzgalov gave up three goals on 14 shots, including two goals on three shots in the second period. Coach Mike Yeo had seen enough.
“All I can do is practice and wait,” Bryzgalov said when asked about his status. “I don’t know.”
For those who’ve lost track, Kuemper was the Wild’s third No. 1 goalie this season before suffering an undisclosed injury. That made Bryzgalov, a trade deadline pickup, the fourth, which worked out fine for the final two weeks of the regular season.
Being forced to rely on the enigmatic Bryzgalov in the playoffs was always high-risk, though, and the worst-case scenario came true for the Wild.
To be fair, the Wild’s soft defense against the Avs’ speedy forwards did Bryzgalov no favors. But the veteran goalie didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence with his play through 4½ periods in this series.
Game 2 looked like a make-or-break moment for Bryzgalov, a performance that would determine the Wild’s next step. Kuemper was declared healthy enough to return Saturday morning after missing the final seven games of the regular season and the playoff opener.
In a perfect world, the Wild wouldn’t have needed to call on Kuemper in this series. But after a solid first period, Bryzgalov lost control and then lost his job.
His defense continued to fail him as the Avs’ budding superstar, Nathan MacKinnon, skated circles around the Wild. Yeo had to make a move, though. He had no choice.
Yeo went out of his way after Game 1 to publicly support Bryzgalov and to make it clear he didn’t blame his goalie for the 5-4 overtime loss. Bryzgalov wasn’t sharp, but he wasn’t the main problem, either.
Killer turnovers and passive defense in the third period doomed the Wild and put Bryzgalov in a tough spot. However, Bryzgalov looked shaky throughout that game. He didn’t play a clean game. He was just OK. And being just OK isn’t good enough in the playoffs.
Yeo and goalie coach Bob Mason spent time talking to Bryzgalov on Friday to make sure he was in the “right frame of mind.” That could’ve meant anything, given Bryzgalov’s quirky approach to life.
Bryzgalov actually provided a nice moment in the first period Saturday. The scenario: Shot from the side, rebound out front, Game 1 hero Paul Stastny staring right at him with the puck from point-blank range.
Bryzgalov dived to his left for a sprawling glove save to snuff out the scoring chance. He just didn’t make enough of those momentum-changing saves.
Yeo lifted Bryzgalov after Gabriel Landeskog scored back-to-back goals in the second period to give Colorado a 3-1 lead.
A goalie change offers no guarantees, though Kuemper showed no signs of rust in making 14 saves.
“He looked great,” Yeo said. “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest.”
The Wild has seen goalies come and go all season, so another change hardly feels like a disruption. That’s just sort of standard procedure for this team.
“I was back in the lineup because if they needed me I was ready to go,” Kuemper said.
He got his turn sooner than expected. That wasn’t the plan, but the Wild ultimately had no choice.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org