Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he looks back at a 5-4 overtime win in Game 7 of Round 1 against the Colorado Avalanche:
Honestly, I don’t even know how to put this game, this series, into words. Nothing beats a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it’s going to be tough to find one filled with more drama than tonight’s contest. It was an emotional roller coaster of a series and tonight was no different. Four different times the Avs took the lead and four times the Wild responded to finally send the game into overtime.
Only 5:02 into overtime, Nino Niederreiter ended the game with a bullet of a shot, very similar to his goal earlier in the game, but we’ll get to him in a moment.
Tonight, there were so many storylines, I could probably write 50 Takeaways. First, we saw the Wild’s resiliency, something we’ve seen time and time again. In playoffs, different players step up in different situations, and Kyle Brodziak’s line emerged with a fantastic game. The center tallied three assists, including one on the winner, and was plus-3.
With the Avs pressuring in the first period, Wild captain Mikko Koivu scored his first of the series to take momentum away and the crowd out of it. Of course, Jared Spurgeon showed the patience of a monk on his goal, pulling the puck around Nathan MacKinnon before beating goaltender Semyon Varlamov high over the blocker. In fact, it was a trend for the Wild tonight, as all of the club’s goals beat Varlamov high.
The Wild will meet the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 2 for a little chance at revenge, after the Hawks eliminated Minnesota in five games last year. My guess is this year will be a much better series.
Nino Niederreiter had himself one heck of a Game 7, but, really, it dates back to his performance in Game 6. The forward was a force in both contests, flying around the ice, playing physical and tonight he was rewarded with more in the best game of his young NHL career. In his morning media press conference, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo talked about the trust and belief that he has in his young players. Well, tonight that trust paid off as Niederreiter struck twice to help the Wild advance to the second round and added the primary assist on Spurgeon’s game-tying tally.
The playoffs are where legends are born, and this goal will go down in history with Andrew Brunette’s 2003 Game 7 overtime winner, coincidentally, against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Wild and Avalanche were about as closely matched as two teams could be, hence the four overtime games in the best-of-seven series. In boxing, they say that styles make fights. Well, the Wild and Avalanche play different styles, which made for a tight and thrilling series. With both teams on the rise and relying heavily on young players, we can expect this Central Division rivalry to continue for many years.
Stick tap to the Avs, who battled and also left it all out on the ice tonight. After the game, we saw enemies for seven hard-fought contests show the ultimate respect for one another by shaking hands. In a game that is filled with traditions, this is one of my favorites. You might hate your opponent, want to rip his head off between whistles, but in the end, you remember it’s a game and shake his hand.
Dany Healtey has been around the block a few times and has scored a lot of big goals in his career, but he had never scored in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs…until tonight. He tied the game up in the second period, moments after an expiring power play. The big winger showed his nose for the net banging home a Mikael Granlund shot.
Setting up the play, Granlund showed his smarts and patience. With the puck moving at the top of the umbrella, Marco Scandella had it at the right wall. Granlund, directing traffic from the left side, pointed and called for Scandella to pass the puck to Jonas Brodin, stationed at the top. Brodin touched it to Granlund, who waited for an angle and put it towards the net. After the puck bounced around, Heatley found it in a forest of trees and stick, popping it over Varlamov. For good measure, Heatley added two assists, including the second apple on the OT winner.
One thing that this series didn’t need was a little more referee controversy, but unfortunately we had another questionable situation, right off the bat. The Avs were given a power play just 1:50 into the game, but this wasn’t the controversy. On the ensuing man advantage, the Avs scored a goal that could’ve been called back for goaltender interference. With Colorado pressuring, Jamie McGinn crashed the crease and bumped into Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, and Nick Holden slid the puck home past the outstretched netminder. Initially, referee Wes McCauley waved off the goal and huddled with his counterparts, so many of us in the press box thought the goal would be disallowed for goalie interference. However, that’s not the reason McCauley originally waved no goal.
Here’s the official statement from the League:
At 2:52 of the first period in the Wild/Avalanche game, Colorado's Nick Holden shot the puck into the Minnesota net in a legal fashion. The in-zone referee initially waved his arms after the puck crossed the goal line as a reaction to a potential infraction for high-sticking the puck. The on-ice officials then huddled regarding the play to discuss if it was a good hockey goal and agreed the goal would stand. Good goal Colorado.
However, this series won’t be remembered for its officiating, and that’s the beauty of hockey. This series will be remembered for two teams absolutely leaving it all on the ice, the way it should be.