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 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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