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Wild stifle Avalanche to even series at 2-2

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild only scored twice in Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Colorado Avalanche, but when you allow 12 shots on goal, you don't need much offense.

The Wild scored a goal in each of the first two periods and killed a Colorado power play in the game's waning moments, holding on for a 2-1 win against the Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday.

The best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series series is tied 2-2 as it shifts back to Denver for Game 5 on Saturday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN, FS-N, ALT).

"We want to get better as the playoffs go along," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "When you play in games like that and you get used to playing in moments like that, when the game's on the line and you have to execute … Those are growing moments for your team."

The Wild limited the Avalanche to 22 shots in a 1-0 overtime win in Game 3 and have outshot Colorado 143-94 in the series.

The Game 4 victory was punctuated by the Wild penalty kill and the selfless play of Game 3 hero Mikael Granlund.

With Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin in the box for hooking and Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov off for the extra attacker, Granlund blocked three Erik Johnson shots in the final 48 seconds, helping to preserve the win.

"You don't try to do too much," said Granlund, who scored the overtime winner in Game 3. "You just try to get in the lanes. That's pretty much all you can do."

"That was desperation," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. "They did what they needed to do to win."

Colorado went 0-for-4 on the power play and is 1-for-15 with the man advantage in the first four games of the series.

The Wild limited the Avalanche to eight even-strength shots Thursday and shut down Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon for the second straight game. After combining for seven goals, 17 points and a plus-9 rating in Games 1 and 2, the trio was held without a point and was plus-1 in Games 3 and 4.

"We're on them," Suter said. "Not giving them a lot of time. It's the same as 5-on-5. When they have time, they're going to make plays. When you're standing still, they're going to skate by you."

Much of Game 4 looked like Game 3, with the Wild controlling play throughout. Of Colorado's five third-period shots, four came in the final three minutes.

After Jared Spurgeon's first career playoff goal made it 1-0 at 3:47 of the first, Minnesota peppered Varlamov but could get nothing by him until past the midway point of the second period.

That's when Minnesota benefitted from some puck luck.

Wild forward Jason Pominville whistled a shot wide of Varlamov. The puck took an odd bounce off the stanchion behind the net and landed in the slot near Charlie Coyle, who slipped it past a stunned Varlamov at 12:55.

"I didn't know where it went either. I don't think anyone did, and I just happened to look and it was right on my stick," said Coyle, who has three goals in the series. "I'll take it. Right place, right time, and it ended up being a big goal for us, so I'll take it."

"Sometimes you need that break to get a big goal for you," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "Look at the winning goal. It wasn't a pretty one. Great play by Coyle, but it was bad luck."

Ryan O'Reilly scored his second goal of the series on a fluttering shot from the half-wall 30 seconds after Coyle's goal. It was Colorado's first goal since the second period of Game 2 and snapped Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper's shutout streak at 124:35.

But Colorado could not build any momentum from the O'Reilly goal. The Avalanche did not have another shot on goal until almost the halfway mark of the third period.

Spurgeon's goal early in the first period came on the Wild's sixth shot and capped a dominating first few shifts; the Avalanche hadn't spent a second in the Wild zone when Spurgeon scored.

"The first part of the game was what didn't happen and what we didn't do," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We were passive and we can't afford to be passive in a game like this."

The Wild outshot the Avalanche 14-3 in the first period.

Varlamov, who made 45 saves in the Game 3 overtime loss, stopped 30 of 32 shots. Despite his struggles in Game 1, a 5-4 overtime victory for Colorado, Varlamov has a 2.19 goals-against and a .937 save percentage in the series.

Kuemper wasn't tested until the game's waning moments and finished with 11 saves. He's 2-0 in the playoffs with a 0.40 goals-against average and a .979 save percentage -- each tops among playoff goaltenders.

The Avalanche's 12 shots were the fewest in the playoffs this season. The previous low belonged to the Philadelphia Flyers, who had 15 against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series. The 12 shots were also the fewest allowed by the Wild in a playoff game in franchise history; their previous low was 13 against the Vancouver Canucks on April 29, 2003.

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