What a difference a day can make. Only 24 hours earlier, the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild were in a tight Game 3 battle en route to their third overtime game in six days – a contest which ended in a 3-2 win and a 2-1 lead in the series for the Wild.
Tuesday night at Pepsi Center, the Avs stormed out of the gates and took a 3-0 lead after one period en route to a 5-1 win and a 2-2 deadlock in the best-of-seven series.
It just goes to show how quickly things can change in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“(Tonight) is hard to explain. The other games have been so tight, but we are very happy to be on the right side of it and get a win here tonight," said Peter Forsberg. "I thought we came out really good in the first period, got a couple of goals and had a lot of people in front of the goalie, so I thought it was great.”
Just like in Monday’s Game 3, Andrew Brunette opened the scoring in Game 4 with a first-period tally. Brunette redirected a Ruslan Salei attempt over Wild netminder Niklas Backstrom’s right shoulder 4:01 into the contest.
It didn’t take long for the Avs to extend their lead to two goals, as Wojtek Wolski netted his second career playoff tally at 5:37 following a Keith Carney turnover in Minnesota’s defensive zone. Carney, who was under heavy pressure from Ian Laperriere in the corner, made a clearing attempt that ended up right on Wolski’s stick before being quickly deposited into the back of the net.
Tyler Arnason added his first career playoff goal before the end of the period, picking up a loose puck after a Martin Skoula turnover and blasting a shot from the high slot at 11:08.
The Avs added a pair of power-play goals in the middle frame to take a 5-0 lead. Salei scored on a point shot at 7:42, while Milan Hejduk
tapped home a Ryan Smyth feed that slide through the crease at 16:14.
Josh Harding replaced Backstrom in the Minnesota goal for the third period and the Wild responded with a Mikko Koivu short-handed goal 3:11 into the frame.
But that was as close as the Wild would get, as Jose Theodore and the Avalanche defense held strong throughout the duration of the contest.
“I was just trying to stay focused, because even though you are up three or four to nothing, we know how quick a turn-around can happen. A couple of shots and it’s 4-2," said Theodore. "Even if you're up 5-1 or 4-0, it’s the same focus…you want to stop the puck."
The series now returns to St. Paul for Game 5 on Thursday.
Jordan Leopold, who had been a healthy scratch for the first three games of the series, made an impact in his return to the lineup Tuesday night. The defenseman, who last played on March 26 against Vancouver, recorded two assists in Colorado’s victory. Leopold now owns 13 assists in 34 career playoff outings.
With eight healthy defensemen, the Avalanche scratched Jeff Finger and Kyle Cumiskey on the blue line.
For the first time in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche avoided overtime by jumping out to a 3-0 first period lead en route to a 5-1 victory Tuesday night.
Colorado and Minnesota had needed an extra session to decide each of the first three games in their Western Conference Quarterfinals series, marking only the fourth time in NHL history that each of the first three games of a playoff series have gone to overtime. The other three occasions were Boston vs. Toronto in 1933, Montreal vs. Toronto in the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals (where all five games went to overtime) and Edmonton vs. Los Angeles in 1991.
The last NHL playoff series with three straight overtime games at any point in the series also involved Colorado. That series came against the St. Louis Blues in the 2001 Western Conference Finals.