Denver – As Minnesotans used social media to rage about officiating, Wild coach Mike Yeo walked to a podium in the basement of Pepsi Center and … smiled.
The smile was a little wan, a little wry, but it was there. After watching his team give up a lead late in the third period and lose 4-3 in overtime in Game 5, leaving the Wild one loss from elimination, Yeo decided not to complain about bad officiating or bad luck. He and perhaps only he, in the Wild traveling party, seemed to enjoy the drama.
“This is playoff hockey,” he said. “You get your highs and you get lows, and it’s how you deal with it. Hey, we’ve got an opportunity to go home in front of our crowd and win and go to a Game 7. … There’s not a lot of things better than that.”
Give the man a cigar. He gets it.
Win or lose Monday, the Wild is in the midst of the most captivating playoff series to hit the Twin Cities since the Kevin Garnett Timberwolves were making their postseason run.
While most Minnesota hockey fans will spend today complaining about referees’ missed calls, it might be wiser to enjoy the violent, ping-ponging melodrama that this series has become.
When the Wild faces Colorado in Game 6 at the X, we can expect blood, sweat and jeers. We can expect the best atmosphere at a local sporting event since the Vikings’ last playoff victory. We can expect a riveting series to continue to stir the ire of players and coaches on both sides. And, given the way this series is gone, we can probably expect the home team to win again, and the series to return to Colorado for a Game 7 on Wednesday.
Saturday night, the Wild lost Game 5 because Darcy Kuemper looked vulnerable … and because Patrick Roy seems to know just when to pull his goalie … and, yes, perhaps because the officials, shaky all night in all respects, appeared to allow an offsides to go uncalled on the Avs’ tying goal late in regulation.
It’s not a series until there’s real hate, and we have that now, with Gabriel Landeskog punching Mikko Koivu in the back of the head and Cody McLeod running Matt Moulson from behind without a stick on his way to the bench.
We had Charlie Coyle cross-checking McLeod and getting caught, while McLeod’s offenses went uncalled.
Unlike in Games 3 and 4, the Wild did not dominate the action Saturday. Both teams played with desperation and not always with intelligence.
You could see the desperation in Zach Parise.
Early in the third period, he flew into open ice, gaining a step on Landeskog.
Mikael Granlund took the puck and shuffled it to Jason Pominville, who zipped a pass cross ice, hitting Parise in stride. Landeskog dived in desperation, waving at Parise’s feet, but Parise unleashed a wrister that caught nothing but net.
Parise cruised behind the net, pumping his arms, only he knows whether his reaction was exaltation or relief.
Until that goal tied the score of Game 5 in the third period, Parise had not scored in this series, and had scored only once previously in 10 playoff games as the Wild’s franchise player.
Parise’s plus-minus rating was minus-7 last year when the Wild offered little resistance to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. He has played better in this series, but franchise players are not supposed to do all the little things well. They’re supposed to do the big things, like scoring goals, too.
Even while dominating puck possession for the past three games, the Wild have been starved for goals, and the reason is painfully simple: Parise, Mikko Koivu and Pominville had not scored a goal until Parise’s third-period wrister.
That seemed to swing the game … until Roy again pulled his goalie, and again saw another desperate flurry lead to yet another overtime in a series that will not stop surprising.
“I can say one thing: Our fans got a heck of a show tonight,” Roy said. “I think we’re going to put on another good one on Monday night.”