Captain Mikko Koivu said “it’s not a game of ifs,” but if the Wild could have cashed in an empty-net goal in Games 1 or 5 or at least not given up tying goals on Colorado Avalanche 6-on-5s, the Wild wouldn’t be on the brink of elimination Monday night.
“You can’t match that [intensity and desperation of defending a 6-on-5 in practice],” coach Mike Yeo said. “There’s no question that you cannot match that. But we’ve been in those situations enough to know we’re confident in how we do it.
“It’s not like they beat us on the same play. I know that we can be better in that area.”
In Game 1, a rebound by Ilya Bryzgalov landed on Paul Stastny’s stick. In Game 5, Stastny set up P.A. Parenteau after defenseman Ryan Suter said he or partner Jonas Brodin should have protected the middle of the ice.
“We got a little stretched out there,” Suter said. “I chased behind the net. I probably should have stopped in front.”
Including the regular season, Colorado has scored six times out of 20 opportunities with an extra attacker.
“We’ve always been smart in that time,” said Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly. “We know we have two minutes … where we don’t need to force plays. We can stay calm, work the puck on the perimeter and wait for them to get out of position and then we attack. We don’t need to rush. We have that calmness that anyone on the ice can make a good play when it’s needed.”
Another set of eyes
Even former referee Kerry Fraser, a TSN analyst, tweeted Saturday night: “Trouble in Denver. Charlie Coyle held by Andre Benoit with net empty causing turnover. Up ice, Paul Stastny is offside as Avs tie game. Ouch!”
There’s no doubt the Wild had some justifiable grievances after losing Game 5 in overtime, but the Wild wasn’t dwelling on officiating Sunday.
“Stuff happens in the game,” Koivu said. “They missed some calls on us, they missed some calls on them and I’m sure it’s the same in every series in the playoffs. I’m sure they’re trying to do all they can to make it even for the teams and make the players decide the game.”
Scratching the surface
Kyle Brodziak, scratched in Game 3 after a tough Game 1 and 2, and Dany Heatley, scratched in Games 1 and 2, combined for a goal and two assists Saturday.
“Since Heater has come back into the lineup, every game he’s continually gotten better, and I think that’s a real positive for us,” Yeo said. “This guy has got experience this time of year, knows the grind, knows what it takes to make sure that you’re prepared. Likewise with Brodzy, I thought that line gave us some real good minutes.”
Before Brodziak’s goal, the fourth line pinned Colorado in its own zone for so long, dead-tired defenseman Jan Hejda coughed up the puck without any pressure on him.
“It seemed like we were in there for two minutes,” Heatley said. “It’s funny — when you’re on offense, you’re not tired at all, but going the other way you’re bagged. We knew they were kind of getting into a shell and Brodziak made a great shot.”
Not keeping score
After leading the Wild with 30 goals in the regular season, Jason Pominville has no goals and three assists in the playoffs.
“If he scores [Monday], great. If he doesn’t score, then do a lot of others things to help us to win the hockey game,” Yeo said. “To me, it’s about making sure that you play the type of game where you give yourself a chance to score a goal, where you give your team a great chance to win a hockey game, because if you start putting too much pressure on yourself, you start thinking about that too much, you start to get away from things, you start to lose sight on what we really need right now.”