Marian Gaborik was again shut down. The game again needed an extra session to be decided. But the result from Game Two in St. Paul was much different than that of Game One, as Friday’s contest ultimately ended in the Minnesota Wild’s favor.
Keith Carney scored the game-winner 1:14 into overtime to give the Wild a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche and a 1-1 tie in the best-of-seven series. Carney’s shot from the left faceoff circle appeared to redirect off Ruslan Salei’s skate before slipping past Avs netminder Jose Theodore.
The series now shifts to Denver for Games Three and Four, set to be played back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday at 8:00 p.m.
“Sometimes you’re getting the bounces and sometimes you’re not,” said Peter Forsberg. “I think we got the bounces in the first game and they got them this game. It’s two good teams and it’s going to be like this every game I think.”
It looked as though the teams would head into the first intermission scoreless, but Forsberg struck before the period expired to give the Avs a 1-0 lead. After gaining the puck just outside Minnesota’s defensive zone, Forsberg cut from the right wing to the inside, where he proceeded to put a shot into the top corner past Niklas Backstrom’s glove hand at 17:06.
Following a scoreless second period, Pavol Demitra evened the game for the Wild with a power-play goal at 1:37 of the third. With nine seconds remaining in a Minnesota man advantage, Demitra’s shot from the left point beat a screened Theodore top shelf.
Late in the third period and with overtime looming on the horizon, Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu gave the Wild a 2-1 edge with a drive from just inside the blue line at 18:11.
But with 1:09 left on the clock, Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson was whistled for hooking Ryan Smyth, giving the Avs a 6-on-4 advantage after also pulling Theodore for the extra attacker.
Just 25 seconds later, Milan Hejduk
sent the game to overtime as he tipped a John-Michael Liles point shot through the legs of Backstrom with 43.8 left in the period. Forsberg also picked up an assist, capping off a two-point night for the forward.
“Every game is a different game, and it’s a different situation,” said Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville. “A tough building to win in. The crowd was pretty noisy for both games. You can always say that you’re satisfied splitting, but we’d like to go home up 2-0.”
One of the keys to Colorado earning a split in Minnesota has been the team’s ability to shut down the Wild’s 40-goal man, Marian Gaborik. The defensive pairing of Kurt Sauer and Adam Foote has generally drawn the assignment of shadowing the two-time All Star, with superb results.
Gaborik was held pointless for the second straight game on Friday night, recording two shots on goal in 21:41 with a -1 plus/minus rating. That came after a Game One performance that saw Gaborik limited to one shot in 23:54 of ice time and another -1 rating.
Jeff Finger recorded an assist on Peter Forsberg’s first-period tally, but didn’t even have his stick during the goal celebration. At the time, the stick was actually about seven rows up in the stands at Xcel Energy Center after being dislodged during a collision with Minnesota’s Todd Fedoruk immediately after Finger had touched the puck.
“I actually have no clue,” Finger said when asked about how he lost the timber. “All I know is that Fedoruk was coming at me and he lifted the stick. He caught it in the right spot and it went flying. Luckily, Foppa got the puck right after and we’ll take him with the puck any day.”
The stick was retrieved from a fan in the crowd by one of the linesmen after Finger offered one of his back-up sticks in exchange.
Tonight’s meeting was the 10th this season between the Avalanche and Wild (eight regular season games, two playoff contests), two teams that have a history of close match-ups. Minnesota’s 3-2 victory marked the fifth 3-2 final score between the teams in those 10 games. Overall, nine of the 10 meetings this year have been decided by two goals or less.
Also, as a point of reference, the Avs are 17-8 all-time in playoff series after winning the opener and hold a 7-9 series record when splitting the first two games.