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Avalanche vs Wild

Wild's Niederreiter raises bar with Game 7 heroics

Thursday, 05.01.2014 / 3:16 AM / Avalanche vs Wild - 2014 SCP First Round

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Wild's Niederreiter raises bar with Game 7 heroics
Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo commented Wednesday morning that forward Nino Niederreiter has "been biting off a little bit more every game." He devoured the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

DENVER -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo commented Wednesday morning that forward Nino Niederreiter has "been biting off a little bit more every game."

He swallowed the Colorado Avalanche whole Wednesday night with a season-changing performance in Game 7 at Pepsi Center.

Niederreiter scored a game-tying goal in the third period and the overtime winner 5:02 into the extra session to give the Wild a 5-4 come-from-behind victory and their first series win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2003.

"I said this before, he raised the bar," Yeo said. "He's got himself in trouble now because this is what we expect."

Yeo was smiling as he said that, but in a way he was issuing a challenge to Niederreiter to continue to raise his game in the Western Conference Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, which begins Friday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Niederreiter did not have a point in four games against the Blackhawks during the regular season. However, he looked like a different player from the regular season in Game 6 on Monday and continued his growth in Game 7, when he not only had two goals on five shots but had an assist on Jared Spurgeon's game-tying goal with 2:27 left in regulation.

"I knew now is the stage when you have to perform and give your best, find an extra level," Niederreiter said. "That's what I tried to do in Game 6, and then I refocused and took the same energy into Game 7."

Niederreiter first made a dent in Game 7 with his game-tying goal at 6:33 of the third period. He rifled a blocker-side wrist shot from the right circle past Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov to tie the game at 3-3.

On his overtime goal, Niederreiter got the puck from Kyle Brodziak on a 2-on-1, kept it and fired another wrist shot from the right circle, this one to the glove side, to beat Varlamov. The puck went in and out of the net so fast that Niederreiter wasn't even sure it was a goal until he was mobbed in a celebration by his teammates.

"When everybody came and celebrated it was just an unbelievable feeling," Niederreiter said. "As a little kid those are the moments you dream about."

Niederreiter also was thinking about these moments when the New York Islanders selected him with the fifth pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. He thought he'd have a home on Long Island for a long time, but it didn't work out that way.

Niederreiter couldn't become more than a fourth-liner for the Islanders, and after playing 55 games, and scoring only one goal, in 2011-12, he spent the entire 2012-13 season in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

The Islanders traded Niederreiter to the Wild at the NHL Draft in Newark, N.J., last June for Cal Clutterbuck and a third-round pick.

Niederreiter played 81 games with the Wild this season, scoring 14 goals and racking up 36 points to go along with a plus-12 rating. He had two goals and two assists in seven games against the Avalanche, and averaged 13:01 of ice time.

"I still learned a lot when I was on Long Island, but at the end of the day I'm very happy I got a bigger opportunity," Niederreiter said. "I'm very happy and pleased to be here. I got rewarded and I'm very happy about it."

The Wild are thrilled for him. They'll be happier if he performs in Game 1 against Chicago like he did in Games 6 and 7 against Colorado.

"He played really good in Game 6, and [Wednesday night] scored some huge ones for us, and set up the tying goal also," left wing Zach Parise said. "That's a special night for him."

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