A 3-2 outcome in overtime can mean only one thing in this spring's Stanley Cup playoffs — another showdown between the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.
All three games in the opening-round series have been decided in OT by a 3-2 count, with Pierre-Marc Bouchard scoring 11:58 into the extra period to win Game 3 at the Pepsi Center on Monday night.
Bouchard received the puck in the slot from a circling Brian Rolston and buried it under the crossbar behind Avalanche goaltender Jose Theodore for his first goal of the playoffs.
"It was a perfect shot, tough for the goalie," Wild forward Mikko Koivu said. "He put it right where he wanted to."
"It was an icing call," Theodore said. "I guess it took a weird bounce and our defenceman went the wrong way, so they were able to get the puck.
"I was a little surprised myself," Rolston said of the strange carom off the end boards. "It came out and I had about two or three guys to give the puck to."
Rolston and Bouchard had one goal and one assist apiece for the third-ranked Wild, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final.
Game 4 goes Tuesday at Denver (10 p.m. ET).
"This is always a tough building to play in," said Koivu, who tallied Minnesota's other goal.
Joe Sakic countered with a goal and an assist for the sixth-seeded Avalanche.
Andrew Brunette opened the scoring for Colorado, and Theodore faced 39 shots in defeat.
The former Hart Trophy winner as top player was particularly sharp in OT, when he smothered Marian Gaborik's point-blank shot from the slot and ranged to his right to deny a deking Pavol Demitra.
"What I expect of myself is to make big saves, especially in overtime," Theodore said. "Then again, anything can happen.
"We saw another kind of weird bounce. That is pretty much how the series has been played so far."
"It is a close matchup," Avalanche defenceman Kurt Sauer said. "Our goalie kept us in the OT.
"That is playoff hockey. One bounce and then you are on the other side of the 'W.'"
Although Theodore was called upon to make several challenging saves, Niklas Backstrom of the Wild was the busier netminder with 44 saves.
"We had some pretty good chances," Sakic said. "But at this time of year, it is production."
Brunette nets rebound
Colorado opened the scoring 15:19 into the contest off a slick rush from Wojtek Wolski and Sakic.
Wolski skated into the Wild zone, circled back to shake a checking forward and slid a soft pass to Sakic, who fired a no-look shot on goal.
Backstrom, though, kicked the puck directly to Brunette, who potted the rebound for his first.
Minnesota tied it 1-1 on a simple dump-and-chase, in which Todd Fedoruk outraced Adam Foote and Sauer to the end boards and backhanded the puck in front to a lurking Koivu, who redirected it for his third goal 7:13 into the third period.
Rolston put the Wild ahead with a short-handed goal at 11:32, finishing off a 2-on-1 break with Demitra, who faked a slapshot to freeze Theodore and slid the puck through the slot to the veteran sniper.
But the Avalanche pulled even on Sakic's second goal with 5:04 remaining in regulation.
Sakic's initial shot was stopped, but Peter Forsberg flipped the puck to a hard-charging Brunette, who was shoved into Backstrom by Wild forward Aaron Voros, erasing the goaltender from the play.
Sakic alertly retrieved the puck in the slot and backhanded it into the net to tie it 2-2.