If you were looking for finesse, speed, agility, and goals, you might have had to look around on NHL Game Center Live or Center Ice for that game because this was not it. No, the Avalanche were on a mission to salvage some thing - anything - for their season by hitting anything and everything that moved. Minnesota just answered the bell in their own way by potting three goals on Semyon Varlamov en route to another win over Colorado.
There were lots of Wild fans in attendance at the Pepsi Center for this one. From the drop of the puck in the first period, "DOOOOB!" chants and "Let's Go Wild" could be heard on both TV and the Radio broadcasts. Erik Haula got the Wild fans a chance to cheer early with a goal that was scored by banking the puck in through the short side on Varlamov. Going back to the Nashville game, Haula has been looking like the Haula of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was also just another display of the forwards depth on this Wild squad.
Another storyline coming into the game was the fact that Colorado had yet to score on the Wild in three games this season. Yes, the Wild shutout the Avs in every game this season coming into Saturday's action. You wouldn't believe it if I told you, but it would be Maxime Talbot that gets credited with maybe the worst called goal ever, you know, outside of the goal that was scored when the net was raised off its moorings and slid under the side of the net that was reviewed by the officials and still called a goal. No, Cody McLeod took advantage of a bad carom off the end boards that went right into the skates of Dubnyk. Dubnyk went into the butterfly, but was then pushed by McLeod in to the net. The puck, which was lodged under the right pad of Dubnyk did cross the line before Dubnyk pulled it back across. It was never called a goal on the ice, but the on-ice officiating team Dean Morton and Chris Rooney felt the need to review the play with Toronto. They called it a goal as they said that Dubnyk skated across the goal line with the puck. Which, of course, was absolutely incorrect because Dubnyk never crosses the line if McLeod doesn't give him a shove. I don't understand where the rules make that count, but nonetheless, the game was tied at one.
Dubynk after the game had this to say about his lost shutout, "I guess McLeod had nothing to do with me going into the net, which is somewhat mind-boggling."
The second period was a penalty fest. It was back and forth with penalties with Minnesota on the short end of most of them. Most of them were warranted, but the Avs got away with a number of things as well. When the Wild had a power play, it was brutal at best. The first unit had the damnedest of times just trying to enter the zone and get shots on the Avs' netminder. Justin Fontaine would get a cross-ice feed from Haula right after the Wild power play expired to break the tie. Again, the players that have been in Head Coach Mike Yeo's doghouse this season, have been the Dawg House for the Wild these past few games. It's been huge for the Wild to get scoring from its depth. The Wild have been carried by its veteran leadership through most of this run post all-star game, but recently everyone is pitching in.
Minnesota also had to be strong on the penalty kill. In the second period penalty-fest, Dubnyk and the penalty killers held strong and held the Av's power play scoreless. No where was that more apparent than a huge 5-on-3 kill where Dubnyk came up huge, but the penalty killers blocked shots and clogged the passing lanes. The Wild penalty kill ended with a perfect 7-for-7 on the night.
Things got chippy in the third period. Zach Parse said post-game of the aggression from the Avs, "I'd probably be frustrated too if you play a team, haven't scored on them in 4 games except on a dump-in."
Kyle Brodziak and Nate Geunin tussled after Nate Prosser took a hit up high from Tyson Barrie. Some say it was a high elbow, while others say the initial contact was shoulder with an elbow extension after the contact. Gabriel Landeskog was in Supremo Antagonist mode as he was found starting stuff after every whistle. Him and Mikko Koivu were often found in shouting matches both on and off the ice. Sean Bergenheim caught Nate MacKinnon up high with a hit, possibly breaking his nose. MacKinnon returned to the ice with a metal cage facemask.
Mikael Granlund found Jason Pominville streaking down the right side on a partial breakaway and he double-pumped before lifting a slap shot over Varlamov's glove. It was his first goal in eight games for Pominville whose been stymied of late, but not without opportunity.
Patrick Roy decided to pull the goalie with three minutes remaining down by two goals. Brodziak cleared the puck off the glass after hitting it out of mid-air that ended up in the empty net. But for Brodziak it was not to be because after review, the officials determined that his stick was too high.
The chippiness spilled into the stands as a Wild fan and Avalanche fan got into a fight during the third period with the Minnesota fan getting the escort out of the arena. I don't know who you think you are, but stuff like that shouldn't happen, even amongst heated rivals. It's just hockey. People go to games to root for their favorite teams and players and shouldn't expect to have to deal with a fight in the stands. There are families in the stands and kids are watching their sports idols. People want to feel safe when entering an arena no matter if it's an opposing arena or one of friendly confines. When you look at it in any way, it's just stupid. Don't ruin sports for the people around you or for other fans that want to travel to see their teams.
Anyways, back to the game.
With just a few ticks remaining, Roy put Cody McLeod on the ice for a faceoff. McLeod then proceeded to head straight at Mikael Granlund, give him a shove that Charlie Coyle took offense to and those two danced and were given each a fighting major. McLeod was given the extra two minute minor for Unsportmanlike Conduct, and 10 minutes for a Game Misconduct. This was huge actually because had the referees decided to give McLeod a two-minute instigator instead, it would mean a suspension and a fine to Patrick Roy. In all off this, Landeskog reached across the glass divider at the benches to throw a punch at Koivu. Landeskog was given a misconduct and sent to the dressing room.
After all was said and done, it felt a lot like the seven game series in last year's playoffs, but with much less on the line. Minnesota has owned the Avalanche all season long, and frankly, have yet to score a legitimate goal. The Wild now have three points on the Calgary Flames and trail Winnipeg by just one. The Wild were solid on 5v5 possession metrics, but the seven power plays for the Avs skewed the all-situation stats. The fourth line has been playing really well. Haula and Fontaine each finished with a goal and an assist. Minnesota will now face the Ottawa Senators up next on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center.