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Parise, Wild force Game 7 against Avalanche

by Dan Rosen

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- This is why the Minnesota Wild paid big money to bring Zach Parise home two years ago.

Parise, the Minnesota native, scored two goals and had a Stanley Cup Playoff career-high four points to lift the Wild to a 5-2 victory against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series at Xcel Energy Center on Monday night.

The Wild evened the best-of-7 series at 3-3 and forced the need for a Game 7 on Wednesday at Pepsi Center in Denver (9:30 p.m. ET, TSN, CNBC, RDS2, FS-N, ALT).

Parise, who signed a 13-year, $98 million contract two summers ago, also helped give the Wild a chance to win a Stanley Cup Playoff series for the first time since 2003, when they went to the Western Conference Final. The Avalanche haven't won a playoff series since 2008, when they beat the Wild in six games.

The winner in Game 7 will play the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.

"These games are fun to contribute, but when we [Parise and Wild defenseman Ryan Suter] signed here, we didn't sign here to win a first-round game," Parise said. "We look at the big picture, but we were able to force a Game 7. That's what we wanted to do when we skated [Monday] morning, and we did it. We've gotta get a win in Denver."

Each of Parise's goals, including the game-winner with 6:29 to play in the third period, came off deflections from in front of the net.

On the winner, Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda tried to clear the puck up the wall, but Suter held it in at the left point. Wild captain Mikko Koivu collected the loose puck and said he realized there would be traffic in front of the net, so he ripped a shot from the left point.

"I didn't know it was Zach [in front of the net]," Koivu said.

Parise, who was getting checked in the back by Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov, got his stick out and deflected the puck in off his blade. He scored 49 seconds into the first period when Suter's shot from the right point went in off his leg to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

"I felt like I had an extra jump," Parise said. "I just felt like I was making some good plays when I had the puck on my stick and it's one of those nights when you just want to keep touching it, keep having the puck. I had a couple of fortunate bounces, off my leg on the first and the tip on the second."

Colorado coach Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov with 2:44 left in the third period, continuing his trend of pulling the goalie for a 6-on-5 advantage earlier than it's typically done by coaches in the NHL.

It worked in Games 1 and 5, but not Monday; Jason Pominville scored an empty-net goal at 18:34 and Marco Scandella added another 30 seconds later.

"We've seen that too many times when they score when they have the empty net, but fortunately we were able to pop a couple in there," Parise said. "They pressure well. They're good at the end with the extra attacker, but we were able to close it out."

After Pominville scored, Koivu said he thought back to the two-goal deficit that the Anaheim Ducks overcame against the Dallas Stars on Sunday by scoring two empty-net goals.

Koivu's brother, Saku, plays for the Ducks.

"After the second one, we knew we had it," Koivu said. "We saw what happened in Dallas and there was still about a minute and a half to go after the first one, so we knew we had to bear down and play well defensively. I thought we did that."

The Avalanche came back from an early 2-0 deficit. Center Paul Stastny scored a shorthanded goal in the first period and defenseman Nick Holden added a power-play goal in the second.

Colorado center Matt Duchene returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his left knee on March 29. Duchene, who missed 13 straight games, had an assist on Holden's goal. He played with a knee brace on.

"It's a start, I guess," Duchene said. "You gotta learn to trust an injury like that, coming back. As the game went on I got more confident with it. There's still a long ways to go, but next game is Game 7, you lay it all on the line."

Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper finished with 21 saves. The Avalanche were outshot 78-38 between Games 3 and 4 at Xcel Energy Center, but were far more offensive-minded in Game 6.

They had to be because the Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Parise and Mikael Granlund 9:35 into the first period.

The Avalanche used their special teams to mount a comeback and tie the game.

Stastny scored on a shorthanded breakaway at 16:59 of the first period, moments after Colorado finished killing off a 5-on-3 for 67 seconds.

The Avalanche finally figured out their power play early in the second period. Duchene was a big part of it. He was also a big missing piece in the first five games, when Colorado went 1-for-18, with the one being an empty-net goal in Game 2.

After Granlund failed to clear the puck down the ice when he had a chance, the Avalanche made four crisp passes before Holden scored on a one-timer from the left side.

Holden delivered a hard pass up to PA Parenteau on the left point. He went diagonally across to Duchene, who then moved the puck down to O'Reilly below the right circle. Holden went backdoor behind Granlund and Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, and O'Reilly found him.

"We expected them to come out hard, and especially when they get a power play in the first minute of the game they certainly get some momentum," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We knew they were going to come back hard, but it was 2-0 after [10] minutes and we still had [50] minutes of hockey to play. I think we did a good job coming back.

"Certainly they're good on home ice, absolutely, but so are we."

The Avalanche are perfect at Pepsi Center in the series. They need to stay that way to advance.

"We fought all year to be in this position, if there was a Game 7," Roy said. "It's in our building in front of our fans. I think it's exciting. It's great for our team. It's going to be a great experience."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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