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Wild's Kuemper shuts out Avalanche again

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper stands 6-foot-5, yet he must seem even taller to the Colorado Avalanche.

Kuemper made 30 saves in the Wild's 3-0 win at Pepsi Center on Saturday for his second consecutive shutout against the Avalanche, who have lost the first two games to open a season for the first time since 2008-09.

Kuemper, who has four career shutouts, stopped 16 shots Thursday in the Wild's season opening 5-0 win against the Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center. His 22-save effort in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round propelled the Wild to a 1-0 win against Colorado.

"The guys in front of me, they're playing unreal," Kuemper said. "There was a little more work today, but our structure was still there and it allowed me to see the plays well. I felt good out there, but a shutout is always a team effort. It's a team stat.

"There definitely was that kind of [playoff] intensity. Two rivals going at it and they definitely wanted to respond after last game. It was a good road game."

The Avalanche went on a 6-on-4 skating advantage with 2:33 remaining in the third period when Wild forward Matt Cooke was penalized for interference shortly after goalie Semyon Varlamov (31 saves) went to the bench for an extra attacker. But Colorado couldn't score and Zach Parise, who had 10 shots, scored into the empty net with 3.3 seconds left.

"There's no question he was tested a lot more tonight and he looked extremely confident," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of Kuemper. "Coming off a shutout, that may have helped there. To come into a hostile environment, we knew they were going to come tonight and you need your goalie to play like that. You need him to come out and have a game like that. I believe we're seeing the maturity and development of the player.

"They came hard, they came real hard. That's a proud team over there so we expected that."

Colorado coach Patrick Roy shook up all four line combinations and they played with a lot more energy than Thursday when the Wild enjoyed a 48-16 advantage in shots, but the outcome was the same.

"Honestly, I'm happy with our game, not with the result but I'm happy with the performance of our team," Roy said. "We talked before the game, we wanted to compete, we wanted to be focused, enthusiastic, and it's exactly what we did. Unfortunately for us we didn't score any goals, but I think we can build on that game. It was a hard-fought game. I thought we were a lot different than we were last game. Unfortunately sometimes you don't get rewarded for that, but I liked the performance tonight."

The Wild took a 2-0 lead at 11:50 of the second period on a goal by Jason Zucker, who accepted a pass from Thomas Vanek near the left hash marks and beat Varlamov with a one-timer over the goalie's left shoulder.

"It's always nice to get that second goal," Zucker said. "The team was playing great so it was good to get a nice pass from Thomas and get a shot on net. It was really good for us. We were playing really well, albeit with a few momentum swings."

The Avalanche lost defenseman Erik Johnson for the balance of the game at 2:23 of the period when he was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing Wild center Erik Haula into the boards while helping to kill off a slashing penalty to Matt Duchene. Though shaken, Haula was able to get to his feet and remain in the game.

"There was no elbow there," said Roy, who added that he would be "very surprised" if Johnson is subject to further discipline by the NHL. "I watched it about 20 times. I understand that I had the video to look at it."

Said Yeo: "I’d like to see it again. There will be people that will look at that, it was dealt with on the ice and we move on."

Colorado killed off the penalty, which turned into a 4-on-4 skating situation for two minutes when Vanek interfered with defenseman Ryan Wilson before the power play resumed.

An apparent goal by Charlie Coyle, who scored in the first period, was waved off at 7:18 because Varlamov was knocked down before the puck entered the net. The call was confirmed following a video replay.

Kuemper made 11 saves in the period. His best stop came with 8.4 seconds remaining when he snared Maxime Talbot's shot from the slot with his glove.

The Wild took a 1-0 lead in the first period on Coyle's goal at 1:51. Ryan Suter took a shot from the left point and Coyle deflected the puck behind Varlamov.

The Avalanche, who failed to get a shot on goal while going 0-for-4 on power play Thursday, managed one shot during a man advantage after Parise was penalized for slashing at 10:46 of the first period.

Varlamov kept the Avalanche within striking distance by making eight saves during a Wild power play that started at 15:14 when Johnson went off for holding. The Wild retained possession in the Avalanche end for the first 1:20 of the power play before Colorado finally managed to clear the zone.

"It's disappointing, especially in our home opener with a great crowd," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We were a couple of goal posts from tying this game up. In the second [period] I thought we were buzzing pretty good, but it is what it is. Certainly the effort was there tonight. It's good sign and we have to keep working.

"Discouraged? I wouldn't think there's any risk for that. We're all professionals in here and we know how to get out of situations like this. We've all been through it before. But certainly we've got to do something different. We need something, a little spark, we need a goal. I think tonight was certainly a step in the right direction."

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