Yeo tells Minnesota Wild to move past loss
ST. PAUL — The ups and downs of a playoff series can be dizzying, and that’s been especially proven during the Minnesota Wild’s first-round matchup against the Colorado Avalanche.
Home wins, road losses, late tying goals, overtime defeats, dubious officiating.
Not only did all that take place in Games 1 through 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, all that took place in Game 5 alone.
The Wild suffered a crushing defeat Saturday night in Denver. But if the Wild don’t refocus and move past the disappointment, their season will abruptly end tonight during, as goalie Darcy Kuemper called it, “win or go home” Game 6.
“There aren’t a lot of teams that just cruise through and every game there’s not another challenge that you have to face,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said before coaching one of the biggest games of his career. “That’s part of the growing opportunity for our group. This is how winners are made in these moments. When you’re tested, how do you respond? When things have gone well, how do you come back?
“We’re trying to become a machine here where shift after shift, game after game we go out and play the same way regardless of who we’re playing. And that’s the challenge of this time of year and that’s where we’re trying to grow.”
This is why Yeo gathered his team at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday. Yeo knew how much the Wild put into Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss. He also knew that frustration was high because of a couple of questionable calls, non-calls and a missed Paul Stastny offside that led to Colorado’s tying goal.
Sunday, Wild players took their coach’s cue and didn’t use the offside as an excuse.
“We already put that behind us,” captain Mikko Koivu said. “Everybody’s making mistakes. So do we.”
The Wild admitted they must play better in today’s must-win Game 6 if they want to extend the series to a must-win Game 7 in Denver on Wednesday.
“It’s not easy, there’s no question,” said Yeo, whose team has won both its home games but lost late leads twice in Denver and went on to lose in overtime. “It would be very easy for us to sit here and say we deserve better, whether that’s in the game or in the series.
“But that’s a useless feeling to us right now. ... We dropped back a little bit in our level (in Game 5) and we have to make sure we bring it up again (today).”
In front of its raucous home crowd, the Wild dominated virtually every moment of Games 3 and 4. Because of that, Yeo felt the Wild began looking too far ahead — the winner of the Wild-Avalanche series will advance to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference semifinals — and was given a “dose of reality” by the Avalanche in Game 5.
It’s not like the Wild played poorly. In fact, the Wild gave themselves a terrific chance to put the Avalanche on the brink of elimination by scoring twice less than two minutes apart in the third period to take a 3-2 lead.
But Yeo said he felt the Wild didn’t have the same urgency that they did at home, didn’t get to the net nearly as aggressively, didn’t defend as well and didn’t play as physically.
And, after bottling up 18-year-old star Nathan MacKinnon in Games 3 and 4, the likely Calder Trophy winner got the time, space and ability to light the Wild up again, with the overtime winner and two assists.
“I think we’re frustrated with the way we played. I think we can play better,” said defenseman Ryan Suter.
The Wild returned to Minnesota last week trailing 2-0 in the series. It swept its two home games to even the series. So the Wild have had their “backs against the wall” before, Suter said, and responded the right way.
They must do that again.
“Obviously we recognize what’s on the line,” Koivu said.
So do the Avs.
“We’ve learned from those two games in Minny,” Colorado’s P.A. Parenteau said. “No one was proud of what happened or felt good after those two games. That’s a feeling we don’t want to live again.”
The Wild felt they played well enough to win two of their three games in Denver. That’s why it was abundantly clear Sunday that Yeo wants a fourth crack.
“I hope that we’re ready to bring it (Monday) because I want the opportunity to see if we can bring it in a Game 7 in their building,” Yeo said. “But in order for that to happen, we’ve got to take care of business here (today).
“Our fans are going to bring it, so let’s make sure we bring it. We’re still a confident group, but we also know there’s a tough task ahead.”
Saturday’s late game: Avalanche 4, Wild 3, OT
Calder Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon scored 3:27 into overtime as host Colorado claimed a 3-2 advantage in its Western Conference first-round series.
MacKinnon collected a loose puck deep in the left faceoff circle and chipped a shot over the glove of fellow rookie Darcy Kuemper and under the crossbar to end the contest. The top overall pick of the 2013 draft also had two assists.
PA Parenteau forged a 3-3 tie with 1:14 remaining in the third period while defenseman Nick Holden and Cody McLeod also tallied for the Central Division-champion Avalanche.
Zach Parise, Kyle Brodziak and Matt Moulson scored while Dany Heatley notched two assists for the Wild.
Colorado 4, Minnesota 3, 1OT
Minnesota 0 1 2 0— 3
Colorado 0 2 1 1— 4
First Period—Penalties—Holden, COL (Boarding), 4:03; Granlund, MIN (Goaltender interference), 12:50.
Second Period—1, Colorado, McLeod 1 (O’Reilly) 8:04 (sh). 2, Minnesota, Moulson 1 (Spurgeon, Heatley) 9:17. 3, Colorado, Holden 1 (Benoit, MacKinnon) 12:16. Penalties—Stoner, MIN (Cross checking), 4:37; bench, COL (Too many men on ice), 6:47; Koivu, MIN (Roughing), 11:44; Landeskog, COL (Roughing), 11:44; Coyle, MIN (Roughing), 17:31.
Third Period—4, Minnesota, Parise 1 (Pominville, Granlund) 4:34. 5, Minnesota, Brodziak 2 (Heatley, Coyle) 6:25. 6, Colorado, Parenteau 1 (Stastny, MacKinnon) 18:46. Penalties—Landeskog, COL (Unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:27.
Overtime—7, Colorado, MacKinnon 2 (Landeskog, Wilson) 3:27.
Shots on Goal—Minnesota 11-9-10-2—32. Colorado 8-12-12-3—35.
Power-play opportunities—Minnesota 0 of 3. Colorado 0 of 3.
Goalies—Minnesota Kuemper 2-0-1 (35 shots-31 saves). Colorado Varlamov 3-1-1 (32-29).
A—18,418 (18,007). T—2:49. Referees—Kelly Sutherland, Brad Meier. Linesmen—Pierre Racicot, Steve Barton.