Wild edge Avalanche to even series 2-2
ST. PAUL -- In keeping with the NHL playoff trend in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild dominated at home Thursday, beating the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 to even their first round playoff series 2-2.
Western Conference teams, playing at home, were 13-1 entering Thursday night's games. The Wild made that number 14-1 on the strength of goals by defenseman Jared Spurgeon and center Charlie Coyle, along with 11 saves by goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Colorado got a goal from center Ryan O'Reilly, and goalie Semyon Varlamov had 30 saves to keep the game close, but the Avalanche offense struggled, generating just a dozen shots on goal.The Wild, who thoroughly dominated Game 3 on Monday, out-shooting the Avalanche 46-22 and winning 1-0 in overtime, started Thursday's game like they had not missed a beat. They recorded the game's first seven shots on goal, whipping the already-enthusiastic audience into a frenzy, and got the only goal of the first period. Wild left winger Zach Parise kicked a puck back to Spurgeon, who was on the blue line. Spurgeon launched a shot on net that sailed just inside the post for a 1-0 Minnesota lead and the defenseman's first career playoff goal. Past the midway point of the game, Coyle gave the Wild a 2-0 lead on a power play. A point-blank shot by right er Jason Pominville deflected over the net and hit a stanchion above the end boards, then landed at the side of the net. Coyle was there to sweep the puck past Varlamov before the goalie could get back in position. But the Avalanche answered just 30 seconds later, when O'Reilly's long range shot from the top of the right circle fooled Kuemper, pulling the Avalanche back within a goal on just their seventh shot of the game. They needed more than 14 minutes to get another shot, as Minnesota continued to frustrate the Colorado offense and their special teams. The Avalanche power play, which was one of the NHL's most effective during the regular season, was 0-for-4 on Thursday and is now 1-for-15 in the series. The 12 shots by the Avalanche tied a franchise low for a playoff game. The previous low of 12 was set on June 2, 2001, in a Stanley Cup Finals loss to the New Jersey Devils. NOTES: Wild LW Matt Cooke, who was suspended by the NHL for seven games on Wednesday for his knee-on-knee collision with Avalanche D Tyson Barrie, read a statement to the media prior to Thursday's game. "It was not my intent to collide with him knee on knee. I think it was my intent to finish my check. Playoffs are a hard, physical time, and it's my job to be physical," Cooke said. It is the sixth time he has been suspended by the league. ... Colorado rookie C Joey Hishon made his NHL debut in Thursday's game, after being called up from their Lake Erie minor league team. He had 10 goals and 24 points in 50 AHL games this season. ... Wild LW Zach Parise assisted on Minnesota's first period goal, extending his career-best playoff streak of consecutive games with an assist to four. ... Game 5 in the series will be Saturday night in Denver.