Despite close score, Wild had control


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With all due respect to our advanced-stats friends, my 5-year-old daughter could have come up with a fairly obvious analysis of about the most lopsided one-goal playoff game played this season in the NHL playoffs.

The Minnesota Wild outshot, outchanced, outhit, outhustled, outwhatevered the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night to even their first-round series.

The black piece of rubber central to this sport belonged to only one team.

So spare me the in-depth analytics on this one; when the ice is this tilted in one direction, the only surprising statistic was the score itself.

How the Wild beat the Avs only 2-1 underlines just how amazing Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov continues to be.

But he can't score goals.

The Wild outshot the Avs 78-34 in the past two games, completely controlled puck possession and shut down some of the NHL's best young offensive talent.

"Desperate," Wild winger  Jason Pominville said in explaining his team's dominating win. "We pushed the pace. We were hard. We were good with the puck. We didn't really turn any pucks over. We played in the O-zone, and if you do that, they'll take penalties and they'll be chasing us like they did for the most part the last couple of games. We outshot them like we did because we were doing a lot of good things."

Wild coach Mike Yeo worked a great bench as well, getting the matchups he wanted with the last line change and rotating his lines with great rhythm.

The tone was set when Wild blueliner Jared Spurgeon scored just 3:47 into the game, underlying a forceful start that saw Minnesota get the first seven shots on goal.

From there, the Wild never relented. The Avs were chasing the game all night long.

The evening was capped with Game 3 OT hero Mikael Granlund blocking shot after shot as the Avs pressured with six attackers. Nary a puck got through Granlund.

The crowd went crazy, the buzzer sounded and the Wild were tied in the series.

"That was great to see," Wild star blueliner Ryan Suter said of Granlund's shot-blocking heroics. "That's what it takes to win at this time of the year. He really laid it all on the line and did a great job."

Added Yeo: "This is the attitude that our whole group has. Everybody is committed to playing a certain way."

Just not sure you can say the same about the Avs' players after the past two games.

With just over three minutes to go in the game, Colorado had eight shots on goal. Eight. That's just three more than the Wild's Spurgeon had himself.

The Avs ended the night with 12 shots, as the Wild established a franchise record for fewest shots allowed. It was also the second-fewest shots allowed by an NHL team in playoff history. (The San Jose Sharks had only 10 shots against the Calgary Flames on April 15, 2008.)

"Our execution is not quite there," a calm and composed Patrick Roy said in his postgame remarks. "We seem to rush some plays. We're not patient enough with the puck. These are the things that we're going to have to do better."

But give the Avs coach credit. While underlining his team's shortcomings, he also stayed positive. His young team needs that right now. The seed of doubt has been planted.

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