Avs go 'all-in' for gutsy Game 1 win


DENVER -- First he heard his nickname being shouted.


In explaining how that become his nickname, Nathan MacKinnon rubbed his face where a playoff beard has started but needs work. The nickname is a bit of a dig at the inability of the Avalanche's 18-year-old star to grow a thick playoff beard.

Regardless of the origin, it got his attention. In the first playoff game of his career -- and at this point the one playoff overtime of his career -- MacKinnon took a pass from Tyson Barrie. He wanted to attract a Wild defenseman behind Ilya Bryzgalov, which he did, and then he heard his name being shouted by Paul Stastny.

He looked up.

"I saw his big paddle there. The big thick blade he's got," MacKinnon said after the game.

He backhanded a pass to Stastny and it was over. The Colorado Avalanche's 5-4 comeback win in overtime was complete, giving the young Avs a 1-0 series lead against a Minnesota Wild team that looked in complete control of the game heading into the third period.

The game-winner was a moment that brought an eruption of celebration from a Pepsi Center crowd that has waited four years to witness a playoff game, but it was only just one moment in a game that was filled with memorable ones for Colorado.

The game featured the first career playoff goal for Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who opened the scoring in the first period. It featured the first career playoff win as an NHL head coach for Patrick Roy and, in a suite somewhere, Joe Sakic celebrated his first win as the team's vice president of hockey operations, a position he was promoted to last May.

It also featured the gutsiest call we've seen a coach make yet at the outset of this postseason.

Down a goal in the third period, Roy's first inclination to pull Semyon Varlamov came with four minutes left in the game when he spotted Minnesota's third defensive pair on the ice. That, he decided, was a little too aggressive.

Instead, he waited until there was 3:01 left in regulation to pull his goalie Varlamov. He called out his lines, and when Stastny heard his name followed by Ryan O'Reilly's, he knew something was up.

When Stastny looked up, Roy let him know what was going on. Varlamov was being pulled, they were going with the extra attacker.

"I was kind of shocked a little bit," Stastny said, then he thought it through. "Why not? There's an icing. They were tired."

See, Stastny assumed it wouldn't last beyond the next whistle. But then came a stoppage in play, some fresh players on the ice for the Wild and Varlamov remained on the bench.

This wasn't a momentary decision to take advantage of a tired opponent. Roy was going for the tie and it was going to be the guys on the ice -- Barrie, Erik Johnson, Stastny, MacKinnon, O'Reilly and Landeskog -- who were going to do it.

"All in," Roy explained after the game. "All in. It was nothing else at all. I have a lot of trust in my players. I asked them a couple times if they needed a timeout. I know they're going to give everything they have -- sometimes you just want to push their limits."

Roy was pushing and the Avalanche responded, but not before the Wild nearly ended it with more than a minute to go.

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