Avs' MacKinnon delivers final break


DENVER -- And to think, he doesn't even turn 19 until Sept. 1.


Nathan MacKinnon's goal 3:27 into overtime padded his lead atop the NHL playoff-scoring chart, but all he cared about on this wild night of hockey was giving the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 series lead over the Minnesota Wild in a series that's had it all.

"It was so exciting," MacKinnon said of scoring the OT winner. "The best part was sharing with the guys in the huddle after the goal, my helmet got ripped off in the celebration. It's pretty exciting. It definitely ranks at the top of my list."

Well, that list is awfully young. It was just 10 months ago he was made the first overall selection in the NHL draft.

Now, he's leading the NHL playoffs in scoring with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in five games, and, at 18 years, 237 days, MacKinnon is the second-youngest player to score an overtime goal in the playoffs. (Boston's Don Gallinger was 17 years, 339 days old when he scored against Montreal on March 21, 1943.)

Seriously, is this happening?

"We knew when we drafted him what kind of player we were drafting," Avs head coach Patrick Roy said. "He had a solid game again tonight."

MacKinnon's heroics happened only because of P.A. Parenteau's controversial tying goal with 1:14 left in the third period, replays seemingly indicating a missed off-side goal on the zone entry. Paul Stastny seems to be ahead of the puck-carrying MacKinnon at the blue line. It wasn't by much, it was close, but that's what it looked like.

"It was offside, and they missed the call. It's a damn shame," Wild star blueliner Ryan Suter said, not hiding his opinion on the matter.

"There's nothing you can do about it now. It's too bad. We came out in the third period and played the way we wanted to. They missed a call [on the tying goal], and we paid for it. I mean, no excuses. We have to play better in the overtime. We got to get more pressure on them. But they definitely got away with a missed call to tie the game."

Wild head coach Mike Yeo was more diplomatic and took the smart route, not wanting the controversial tying goal to overtake his team's focus ahead of Game 6.

"It is what it is," a calm Yeo said. "To sit here and dwell on it, I don't think will do us any good. Obviously frustrating, obviously disappointing, but bottom line is, it's not going to do us any good."

It was the Avs who were fuming with 4:33 to go in the third period when captain Gabriel Landeskog was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a snow shower on Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper. It was technically the right call, no question. as the league, a few years ago, wanted to clamp down on players doing that. But the Avs were incredulous that it was called so late in a playoff game.

But they killed the penalty, and that set up yet another sixth-attacker magic moment.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov was on the bench when Parenteau put home a rebound over Kuemper, and bedlam ensued at the Pepsi Center.

It was the second time in the series that the Avs scored the tying goal late with the extra attacker, also doing it in Game 1.

It's uncanny just how calm and focused the young Avs seem to be when they're in that position. Perhaps that's a result of Roy pulling his goalie earlier than most other coaches normally would for the extra attacker, something he's done all season long.

"When it happens a couple of times, you do build some confidence. You're more patient, you're not forcing any plays. It's like a power-play kind of thing," Parenteau said. "It was no different tonight. We got it done again. I don't know what the recipe is exactly, but it's pretty special. I've never seen anything like it."

It was just another moment in a game that had all kinds of twists and turns.

A 2-1 Avs lead in the third period was erased by Wild goals 1:51 apart from Zach Parise and Kyle Brodziak. You could hear a pin drop in this building after those two goals gave the visiting team a 3-2 lead.

Suddenly, you're thinking the Wild are going home up 3-2 with a chance to wrap up the series at home, where they've dominated the Avs.

But no, the "Why Not Us?" Avalanche pulled yet another trick out of the bag on this night.

They gave themselves a chance to win with a much better effort than their two losses in Minnesota, where they barely touched the puck and were outshot badly.

They had 35 shots on this night, exactly one more than the 34 total shots they had over two games in Minnesota.

"Finally, we got some chances," Roy said. "I think we're going in the right direction. It's very positive."

Most notable was the presence of MacKinnon, who rediscovered his legs after being bottled up in Minnesota, on this night.

His rush up the ice in the second period while both teams were playing 4-on-4 was something to behold, MacKinnon rocketing in the Wild zone, backing up the opposition and dropping the puck back to Andre Benoit, whose pass to Cody McLeod was tipped in for a 2-1 lead.

"The first period was tough, but on that 4-on-4 [in the second period], I kind of got my jump back," MacKinnon said. "It's always nice to have some open space. Benny and Holden made a great play there on that goal. From there, I just started feeling more confident. I don't want to be like that. I want to be more level-headed, I'm not going to lie, though, I definitely had more jam at that point."

The whole team had more jam. It came a day after its head coach held a passionate media availability in which he, ahem, asked his players to put their manhood on the table.

So, Patrick, did they Saturday night?

"What do you think? I'm happy," Roy said. "We all agree on this. We did tonight [put their manhood on the table]. Our guys played with a lot of passion and a lot of heart."

They'll need to bring that game to Minnesota, where the young Avs looked overwhelmed playing in a hostile rink.

But they might get help. Star center Matt Duchene, who has missed the past 12 games recovering from a knee injury, could be back as soon as Game 6.


"We're going to take a serious look at it," Roy said of Duchene's availability for Game 6.

Thing is, doesn't this series feel like it's going seven? Sure does.