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Wild struggling with defending six attackers

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It's not hard to envision a scenario where the Minnesota Wild are winning their Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche and advancing to the second round.

Instead, the Avalanche have a chance to eliminate the Wild with a win in Game 6 Monday at Xcel Energy Center (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, RDS2, ALT, FS-N).

Minnesota has had two chances to close out late wins at Pepsi Center and allowed Colorado to tie the score -- and win in overtime -- on each occasion. In Game 1, the Wild led late until Paul Stastny scored with 13.4 seconds remaining. In Game 5 on Saturday, it was PA Parenteau tying the game with 1:14 left in regulation.

The common denominator between the two has been the presence of a sixth Colorado skater. In each scenario, Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pulled goaltender Semyon Varlamov with more than two minutes remaining in each game.

Each time, the strategy has worked.

"We've gotta look at it for sure," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "For me, I hate to keep using the word urgency, but they're bringing a little more urgency in that situation than we are. Let's hope we get that opportunity again."

Roy and the Avalanche work on six-on-five in practice, which is one of the reasons why Colorado has been successful with it. Yeo can put five guys against six, but the one aspect he can't re-create is the urgency.

"There's no question, you can't match that," Yeo said. "But we've been in those situations enough to know that we're confident in how we do it. It's not as though they beat us on the same play, one was off the rush, one was playing in our D-zone coverage. I know that we can be better in that area, and like I said, I just hope we get an opportunity."

Wild captain Mikko Koivu said it's frustrating when the goals happen. But knowing this series could come to an end hasn't crept into anyone's minds.

"It's not a game of ifs," Koivu said. "You have to move on. It happens fast. We can't get down on one or two plays. We gotta keep going and [play] the defense we've been playing all year."

Minnesota's struggles against the six-on-five are unexpected considering their odd-man chances this series. The Wild have killed 17 of 18 penalties this series, with the one goal allowed coming with their net empty in Game 2, and killed a six-on-four chance to preserve a win in Game 4.

"We were able to kill a six-on-four, I know we can kill a six-on-five," Yeo said. "That's the kind of desperation you need. Blocking shots, [we have to be] doing whatever it takes to make sure that we're a little bit better in that area."

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