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Avs Bring Confidence Back to Minnesota for Game 6

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – The Colorado Avalanche has unfinished business in the state of Minnesota. At least that is how many of the players on the team are taking Game 6 against the Wild.

The Avs can close out their first-round series with a win on Monday at Xcel Energy Center, a place where they struggled to score goals and generate good scoring opportunities just a few days ago. Colorado leads the series 3-2 but all of its wins have come at Pepsi Center.

Minnesota won Games 3 and 4 on its home ice by scores of 1-0 in overtime and 2-1; not high-scoring affairs, but the Wild did hold a combined 78-34 shot advantage in those contests.

Still, Colorado was just one shot and goal away in those games from a win and forcing overtime.

"Obviously they played very well against us," forward Nathan MacKinnon said on Sunday at South Suburban Family Sports Center. "I think we need to do a better job of generating some more offense. We've been a good road team all year so I don't think we need to get discouraged after a couple bad road games."

MacKinnon helped the Avalanche break out of its offensive funk in Game 5 as he scored the overtime-winning goal and added two assists in the 4-3 victory.

Minnesota goaltender Darcy Kuemper entered the series midway through Game 2 and had only one goal against on 48 shots before Game 5. Colorado finally got to the 23-year-old netminder on Saturday by increasing its shots (35) and its quality scoring chances.

"I don't think we tested [Kuemper] much in Minny," said PA Parenteau, who scored the game-tying goal with 1:16 remaining on Saturday. "He had it pretty easy. Last night we made life a little harder for him. I think we have to keep doing that. We have to bring this energy and this confidence that we have at home."

Head coach Patrick Roy said his club's confidence of scoring on Kuemper at home can carry over to the next game in St. Paul.

"I think we start to know that we can beat this guy, which is very positive going there," Roy said. "It's a big difference in my opinion going into Game 6."

Just like the Avalanche did in its wins at Pepsi Center, the Wild fed off the energy from its home crowd in its two victories. Minnesota was also playing desperation-type hockey, wanting to avoid going down 3-1 in the series or be eliminated in four games.

Parenteau said this time the Avs have a better understanding on what to expect from the Wild in a road playoff game.

"I think we have learned from those two games in Minny," Parenteau said. "I don't think anyone is proud of what happened or felt good about those two games on the plane coming back [to Colorado]. That's a feeling we don't want to feel again. The boys will be working hard and competing tomorrow night to make sure that doesn't happen again."

The Avs didn't change much from their losses in Minnesota to their win at home in Game 5. Roy said they did a better job on offense of forechecking and winning more one-on-one battles, while tracking the Wild better and forcing tougher shots on defense.

However, the big win in Game 5 doesn't mean much now to the Avs as forward Ryan O'Reilly said the team is focused at what's next: Game 6 and winning the fourth game of the series.

"I think we have a lot of confidence, but we have left that game behind and we're in preparation mode now," O'Reilly said. "We know it's not going to get any easier. There are still things—details—that we need to do in order to beat these guys in their home rink."

A win by the Avs on Monday would advance them into the second round for the first time since 2008—when they defeated the Wild in six games during the first round—and avoid a Game 7 back in Denver.

As for Minnesota, the team will be playing for its playoff life.

"It's going to be a tough task," MacKinnon said. "They're going to be coming out hard. They're going to be desperate. Their season is on the line Monday night, and we have to have the same mentality."

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