Avalanche romp over Wild
The third period was hardly needed, let alone overtime, in a commanding 5-1 win for the Colorado Avalanche over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night in their Eastern Conference quarter-final.
Ruslan Salei and Tyler Arnason each netted a goal and an assist as Colorado tied the best-of-seven series after four games. Minnesota and Colorado had played three consecutive overtime games to begin the series, all settled by a 3-2 score.
The Avalanche dominated from the start on this occasion, scoring three times in the first 11 minutes, and leading 5-0 after two periods. Mikko Koivu scored his fourth goal of the playoffs in the final period for Minnesota, who have scored all nine of their goals in the series in either the third period or overtime.
"We don't feel good about losing 5-1," Wild forward Brian Rolston said. "But demoralizing? It's 2-2.
"We feel good that we came in and won a game. We don't feel good about what we did tonight."
"They came after us hard and got three quick ones. They had us on our heels and then we got into penalty trouble and the game snowballed on us."
With the play onesided, the game got chippy late in the second, Colorado had 13 power-play opportunities on the night.
"These are low-scoring games and the power play is huge," Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg said. "You don't want to get down and you don't want to play short-handed.
"Unless the game gets out of hand, it won't be like it was today. The good thing about all this is it's 2-2 now."
The series returns to Minnesota for Game 5 on Thursday.
Andrew Brunette, Wojtek Wolski and Milan Hejduk also scored for the Avalanche in the game at Pepsi Center in Denver. Defenceman Jordan Leopold, a healthy scratch the first three game of the series, had two assists.
José Théodore finished with 24 saves for the win.
Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom allowed all five goals, on 29 shots. He was given a rest for the final period, with Josh Harding stopping all 11 shots that came his way.
"I couldn't wait until that game gets over," Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I knew there was nothing to do.
"It was getting ugly, the guys were frustrated. The more they got frustrated, the more we got penalties - it never stopped."
Despite winning Game 3 in overtime in Colorado less than 24 hours earlier, it was the Wild who came out uninspired.
Colorado scored the opening goal for the fourth straight game of the series when Brunette skated in front of Backstrom and tipped in Salei's shot at the 4:01 mark.
It was very quickly a two-goal game. Defenceman Keith Carney turned the puck over and Wolski beat the Wild goalie to the blocker side at 5:37.
Arnason added to Minnesota's woes midway through the period with a slapshot from just inside the blue-line that Backstrom misread.
The goaltender settled down a made a sterling glove save on Hejduk in the period's final minute.
Minnesota nearly got a goal back on the power play early in the second, but Colorado defenceman Adam Foote swiped away a puck that trickled past Théodore and sat in the crease.
It was a pivotal moment as Colorado converted on their own man-advantage at 7:42 when Salei blasted a shot from the point to beat Backstrom on the short side.
Later in the period, Hejduk had a half-empty net in which to deposit his 32nd career playoff goal after Ryan Smyth drove hard up ice to set up the play. It was also a power-play goal.
Derek Boogard, Minnesota's six-foot-seven enforcer, took 12 minutes worth of penalties late in the second to set the tone for much of what was to follow. All told, there were 134 penalty minutes in the game, 91 taken by Minnesota.
"That's hockey," Smyth said. "I mean, I've been on the other end of the scale before — behind, down — and you just want to try to carry some momentum into the next game."
Koivu's goal, which ties him with Philadelphia's Daniel Briere for the playoff lead, was a short-handed marker.
"It was like any playoff game — guys start hitting and it becomes intense hockey," Wild forward Stephane Veilleux said. "They came out harder than us."
Fittingly, the game ended with a minor scrum after the final buzzer.