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Avalanche top Wild, grab 2-0 series lead

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Minnesota Wild had no answer for the Colorado Avalanche line of rookie Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabriel Landeskog on Saturday night.

MacKinnon and Stastny each had four points and Landeskog scored two goals to power the Colorado Avalanche a 4-2 win at Pepsi Center in Game 2 of their Western Conference First Round Series.

The Landeskog-Stastny-MacKinnon line combined for four goals and six assists, and goalie Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves as the Avalanche took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. Game 3 is Monday at the Xcel Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, RDS, TSN, FS-N, ALT).

"That line was on fire tonight, they played really well," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "They had an outstanding game. They were moving the puck really well, they were skating well. I have to say one thing here, all our guys played really well. I thought it was a really good team win."

After collecting three assists in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut Thursday, MacKinnon was even more of a force Saturday. He scored an electrifying first-period goal to tie the game 1-1 and assisted on each of the Avalanche's other three goals.

"It's very exciting out there," he said. "Everybody's having a blast. We're having fun because we're winning. I still feel like a kid, I'm 18. I'm trying not to grow up too fast. I'm enjoying this."

MacKinnon brought the crowd to life and regained momentum for the Avalanche after Charlie Coyle drove to the net to give the Wild a 1-0 lead at 4:18 of the opening period with his second goal of the series.

After taking a pass from Stastny just inside the Colorado blue line, MacKinnon skated past Wild center Mikko Koivu, sped into the Minnesota zone and stepped around defenseman Jared Spurgeon into the right circle, where he fired the puck past goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's right arm.

"I wanted to kind of skate to the middle and I kind of jumped to the outside," MacKinnon said. "I didn't know I'd have that much room. Obviously, I'm pretty fortunate that he bit on it, I guess, and I just fired it at the net and it went in."

MacKinnon admitted to watching the replay on the large video board after getting back to the bench.

"Yeah, I did, I won't lie about that," he said. "It was my first playoff goal, so it was pretty exciting. I don't expect to get four points in Game 3, I just want to help the team anyway I can."

With a goal and six assists, MacKinnon has tied the NHL record for the most points by a player in his first two playoff games. Odie Cleghorn did it in 1919 and Barry Pederson in 1982.

The Landeskog- Stastny-MacKinnon unit had three goals and five assists through the first two periods, when the Avalanche built a 3-1 lead and chased Bryzgalov, who permitted two second-period goals on three shots.

Roy put the three together in the third period Thursday in an attempt to kick-start the offense after the Wild took a 4-2 lead, and Stastny responded with the tying and overtime goals.

"A couple of the goals tonight, we all had a hand in them," said Stastny, who has three goals and five assists in the series. "When you're playing with two guys like MacKinnon and Landeskog, as long as they're moving, I'll find them and that creates a lot of space."

Wild coach Mike Yeo called the high-scoring line's performance "the story of the game, for sure," and is hopeful that he and his coaches can figure out a way to slow it down on home ice.

"When we get home maybe we can make it a little more uncomfortable for them," Yeo said. "Part of it is getting home, getting the matchups we're looking to get. Part of it is we still need to be better. We've been able to shut down really good players all year long. We're backing up a little bit, too much as far as I'm concerned. I think we're allowing them to build speed, so we have to do a better job."

The Wild pulled within 3-2 with 1:19 left in regulation on a shorthanded goal by Marco Scandella after relief goalie Darcy Kuemper went to the bench for an extra skater. But the Avalanche put the game away when MacKinnon fed Stastny for an empty-net goal with 14.2 seconds to go.

The Avalanche thought left wing PA Parenteau, who caught an unpenalized high stick by Jonas Brodin near his left eye at 15:53, scored into the Wild's vacated net with 1:30 to play for a 4-1 lead, but the play was ruled offside.

"In the past, when calls like this happen, we seemed to lose our focus,"

Roy said. "You just want to regroup and say, 'Hey, guys, let's stay focused.' Adversity in the playoffs happens. Those things happen."

The Wild's most pressing problem is finding a way to control the Avalanche's fleet forwards.

"Their line's been on fire, making a lot of plays, making a lot of things happen," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. "They're very confident right now. We just have to get that momentum back. It doesn't matter if you lose 10-0 or you lose with 13 seconds left. It's a loss. A loss is a loss and you have to get the next one. That has to be the mind-set. You can't get frustrated. I mean, we didn't play the way we're capable of playing. They played well. They played really well, and we have to be better."

The Avalanche also got a strong game from Varlamov, who made seven saves on three Wild power plays.

"He was rock-solid," Roy said. "He made some key saves at the right time."

Landeskog broke a 1-1 tie at 2:58 of the second period. Stastny got the puck to MacKinnon, who left a drop pass for Landeskog in the right circle for a shot over Bryzgalov's glove into the top corner of the net.

Landeskog scored again three seconds after the Wild finished killing off an Avalanche power play. MacKinnon sped down left wing into the bottom of the circle and passed back to Stastny, who spun around to get the puck to Landeskog in the slot for a shot into a half-open net at 11:59.

"Certainly it feels good to contribute and to give our team some momentum in the second," Landeskog said. "Our line has done a good job of working hard, and that's where it starts for all of us. We complement each other very well with Nate's speed and Paulie's smartness and vision, and I just try to find the open ice and use my shot."

Yeo replaced Bryzgalov after Landeskog's second goal with Kuemper, who missed the previous eight games because of an upper-body injury. Kuemper stopped all 14 shots he faced.

"Obviously for me to go in something had to go wrong, we'd have to be down or a situation like that," Kuemper said. "But I was ready and that's why I was back in the lineup, because if they needed me I was ready to go."

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