Granlund's diving goal in OT gives Wild 1-0 win
By Chad Graff
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — It took 65 minutes and eight seconds, but the Wild finally got a puck past Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov.
After controlling the play all game, Mikael Granlund finally scored the game-winner in overtime to give the Wild a 1-0 victory, their first win in the best-of-seven, opening-round playoff series.
Colorado now holds a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4 Thursday night in St. Paul.
Five minutes, eight seconds into overtime, Granlund hit the break along the wall and charged toward the net. As he fell to the ice, Granlund sneaked the puck past Varlamov.
Prior to that, Varlamov had turned aside 45 straight shots as the Wild finished with a 46-22 shot advantage, which set a playoff franchise record.
It was a near must-win game for the Wild. Only three teams in NHL history have overcome a 3-0 series deficit in the playoffs.
Just as they did last year against Chicago, the Wild won Game 3 in overtime after dropping the first two. Last year, the Blackhawks beat the Wild in Games 4 and 5, though, to finish the series.
For the first time in this series, the Wild controlled the play and dominated regulation.
It made it hard to overstate Varlamov’s brilliance. After allowing four goals in the first two periods of this series, Varlamov returned to the other-worldly numbers the Colorado goalie put up in the regular season.
He allowed a few rebounds in the first few minutes of the first period but was stellar after that.
Charlie Coyle came the closest to beating him, but his regulation shot clanked off the post and rolled harmlessly to the corner.
Varlamov stopped great chances by Zach Parise, Granlund and Jason Pominville. The Wild outshot the Avs 44-20 through regulation.
Defensively, the Wild did what they weren’t able to do in the first two games of this series — bottling up a potent Avs top line led by 18-year-old superstar Nathan MacKinnon.
For the first time, coach Mike Yeo had the last line change that is given to the home team. He used it to assign a trio of Matt Cooke, Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine to lock down MacKinnon and Co.
They succeeded with great results. Cooke and Ryan Suter both got heavy hits on MacKinnon, who went without a point for the first time in the series.
The only chances Colorado got early came on the power play. But the Wild’s penalty kill, featuring more of Cooke and Haula, continued its strong play.
Darcy Kuemper did enough to keep the game scoreless in his first start since March 27. The Wild goalie had been out with a concussion.
There were plenty of Minnesota chances early.
The Wild hadn’t dominated a first period all season the way they did Monday night.
They outshot the Avalanche 22-8 through the first 20 minutes and only built on that as regulation continued. The 22 shots on goal set a franchise playoff record for a period.
Four Wild players recorded at least three shots on goal in the first alone. It was a puck-possession clinic. The 22 shots came without a single power play.
The Avalanche recorded eight shots on goal in the first and it felt like even fewer.
They ended the first scoreless, though, followed by a scoreless second and third.
Finally, when it seemed Varlamov might never allow a goal, the Wild found a way to beat him and the Avs.
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