There is precedent for the Wild rallying to win a playoff series after allowing a late tying goal in Game 1, then losing that same game in overtime.
Just ask Matt Cooke.
The Wild veteran was a 23-year-old Vancouver Canucks agitator in 2003 when he sent Game 1 of the conference semifinals against the Wild to overtime with 1.2 seconds left. Trent Klatt then scored in overtime to lift Vancouver to a 4-3 victory.
“I remember slamming my fists on the ice because I was face down,” Cooke said, laughing.
That’s why Cooke said the Wild surrendering a two-goal, third-period lead in Thursday’s Game 1 OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche is not the “end of the world” provided the Wild responds properly in Saturday’s Game 2.
“Even if you look further in that 2003 series, we were up three games to one and the Wild won the series,” Cooke said. “Series are long. Series take their toll. The key to winning a series is you learn your lessons from the previous game, but you can’t carry the emotions of wins or losses into the next game.
“You deal with it and move on.”
Friday afternoon, the Wild did its best to put Thursday’s disappointment in the rearview mirror during an up-tempo, lively, surprisingly loose practice. The Wild tried to pull the good things it did out of Thursday’s game while repairing the bad things.
The Wild knows it must manage the puck better in Saturday’s rematch, must defend better and must be more physical.
“There’s enough positives to take from that game where we should feel good about ourselves,” coach Mike Yeo said. “The best part for me is that was a winnable game for us, but I know that we can be better.”
The only lineup shuffle expected Saturday is rookie center Erik Haula being elevated to the third line between Cooke and Nino Niederreiter and Kyle Brodziak, who was minus-3, being demoted to the fourth line between Stephane Veilleux and Cody McCormick.
The Wild had total control of Thursday’s game until Brodziak’s unforced turnover with less than 13 minutes left in the third period resulted in Jamie McGinn cutting the deficit to 4-3.
“I double-clutched myself and it ended up in the back of the net and was the turning point in the game,” Brodziak said.
Later, in the final minute, Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon gave the puck away instead of flipping it out of the Avs’ end. That led to Paul Stastny’s tying goal with 13.4 seconds left.
“The mistakes that we made were some big ones,” Spurgeon said.
Added Yeo: “They got goals coming directly off our stick. We had the hockey game on our stick.”
The hope is Haula’s speed will help neutralize some of Colorado’s speedier, more skilled forwards, especially rookie Nathan MacKinnon, who assisted on three goals in his playoff debut.
“Whatever the task, whatever the role, I’ll take that challenge,” Haula said.
But Yeo also wants the Wild to be more aggressive in the defensive zone.
“I think we had too much respect for them, personally,” Yeo said. “I look at situations where we’re in D-zone and we’re on our heels. Normally we’re on our toes, we’re jumping, we’re pressuring. We always talk about our structure, but it doesn’t mean anything if we’re giving time and space to great players. … I know we can pressure the puck harder, I know that we can take straight lines and go through guys harder.”
Similarly, Yeo said, “I don’t believe we made things hard enough on them physically.”
The Wild spent a large part of practice trying to clean up tactical things, such as cutting off those bang-bang plays the Avs like to make out of the corner and from behind the net. Colorado’s first, fourth and fifth goals came like that.
“You’ve got to be careful with skilled guys. You don’t want to overcommit yourself,” Zach Parise said. “We can do a better job of stopping the cycle earlier and being a little more physical and pinning them rather than letting them cycle and cycle.”
It was a long night for the Wild. Players had trouble sleeping. They woke up with regret because they so had Game 1 in the grasp of their hands.
But now, the Wild must rebound.
“There’s still a lot of hockey to be played,” Cooke said. “When we started this process, if you said we were going to lose a game to the Colorado Avalanche, everybody would have expected that. So it’s one game. We have to build off last game, and the good thing is we feel there are areas we can be better.”