NHL Playoffs: Minnesota not feeling so Wild
DENVER — The young Colorado Avalanche are proving experience does not matter in their first postseason in four years.
Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny had a goal and three assists each, left winger Gabe Landeskog had two goals and the Colorado Avalanche took a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night.
Stastny, 28, is a graybeard compared to MacKinnon, 18, and Landeskog, 21. The youth that could have been an obstacle hasn’t been a problem for Colorado so far.
“We know we have talent in this room and we know we have offensive abilities,” Landeskog said.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped 30 shots for the Avalanche, who are 12-0 when winning the first two games of a series since moving to Colorado in 1995.
Game 3 is Monday in Minnesota, where the Wild hope to figure out how to stop Colorado’s top line.
“It’s all about momentum, inside one game, inside of a series, and they took advantage of theirs,” Minnesota center Mikko Koivu said. “We’ve got to learn from that. I think we have to handle that and move on and get the momentum back.”
MacKinnon and Stastny have seven points each and Landeskog has three goals in the series where Colorado’s speed has made the difference. The Avalanche have scored seven of the last nine goals, most of them coming from the trio.
“If they get to open space they know I’ll find them,” Stastny said of his linemates.
They have the Wild wondering how to stop them.
“Their line’s been on fire, making a lot of plays, making a lot of things happen,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “They’re very confident right now. We just have to get that momentum back.”
Their play Saturday chased Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov late in the second period after he allowed three goals on 14 shots.
Bryzgalov played well in the stretch run of the regular season after coming over in a trade with Edmonton on March 4. He has struggled against Colorado in this series.
Goalie Darcy Kuemper came on and had 14 saves before coming off for an extra skater with 2:26 left and Minnesota down 3-1.
“Obviously for me to go in something had to go wrong, we’d have to be down or a situation like that,” Kuemper said. “I was ready and that’s why I was back in the lineup, because if they needed me I was ready to go.”
Defenseman Marco Scandella scored to make it a one-goal game with 1:19 left but Stastny scored into the empty net with 15 seconds left.
Center Charlie Coyle also scored for the Wild, who lost five straight playoff games to Colorado dating back to the 2008 season.
Landeskog broke a tie with a goal 2:58 into the second, when he took a drop pass from MacKinnon and beat Bryzgalov with a high shot to make 2-1.
“I just wanted to turn (Suter’s) feet and see what happened from there,” MacKinnon said. “Gabe made a good play by screaming for it.”
Nine minutes later, Stastny got the puck from MacKinnon and fed Landeskog, who shot it into the open net with 8:01 left in the second.
“They played really well,” coach Patrick Roy said. “They were moving the puck really well, skating well. The third goal that Paul put it to Landy, wow. That was a super goal.”
That was all for Bryzgalov, who has allowed eight goals on 45 shots this series.
The Wild used an early power play to gain momentum and cashed in when Coyle crashed the net and scored after Varlamov’s deflection bounced off of the center at 4:18 of the first.
MacKinnon tied it on a great individual effort. He skated past two Wild players at center ice, entered the Minnesota end and turned Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon into a pretzel before beating Bryzgalov with a snapshot at 6:20.
“That first goal was an unbelievable play by Razor. That changed the whole momentum of the game,” Stastny said. “They came out early, they were all over us, they had a couple of power plays and they scored a goal. When he scores that it completely settles us down. That first goal was the turning point.”
Colorado gained some momentum after killing off another penalty, and after starting the game down 7-2 in shots it held an 11-10 advantage after the first.
NOTES: Minnesota LW Dany Heatley was scratched for the second straight playoff game. ... Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said C Matt Duchene, out since spraining his left knee March 29, is “very doubtful” to play in this series even if it goes the distance. The team’s leading scorer during the season was projected to be out 4-6 weeks, and Saturday was exactly three weeks since he was hurt against San Jose. Center John Mitchell is considered day-to-day but won’t play anytime soon. ... Wild LW Mike Rupp served the third game of his suspension for his hit on St. Louis’ T.J. Oshie last week. He can return in Game 4. ... Colorado D Cory Sarich (back) is getting closer to returning.