ST. PAUL, Minn. – Semyon Varlamov emptied the net with 2:39 left, and a penalty on Minnesota 25 seconds later gave Colorado a two-man advantage.
This time, with a record roaring crowd on their side, the Wild held firm and sent the Avalanche back home with a long to-do list.
Charlie Coyle scored his third goal of the series, and the Wild dominated the Avalanche for the second straight game on their way to a 2-1 win on Thursday night that evened the first-round matchup at two apiece.
The Wild outshot the Avalanche a stunning 32-12, establishing a franchise record for fewest allowed by Minnesota. Colorado has been outshot 78-34 in the last two games, with Ryan O’Reilly getting the only goal.
“Every game is a new game and you have got to always bring that energy and same focus, but I think we fed off of last game and how well we played,” Coyle said.
Jared Spurgeon used a slap shot to get a puck past Varlamov just 3:47 into the game, much quicker than the 65:08 the Wild needed to score in Game 3. Game 5 will be in Denver on Saturday night.
Coyle was in perfect position on a power play to backhand in a friendly bounce of the ricochet of Jason Pominville’s rocket off the glass behind the net, giving the Wild a two-goal lead with 7:05 left in the second period.
Just 30 seconds later, O’Reilly gave the Avalanche their first goal against Wild rookie Darcy Kuemper in the series after 42 shots and more than 124 minutes without one, a long-range shot from the top of the circle without any traffic in front that cut the lead to 2-1.
But that was all they could scrap together on another off night by stars Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabe Landeskog, who were the highlights for the Avalanche in winning the first two games.
“We’ve just got to stay on the pedal here and continue this push,” Kuemper said.
Roy’s daring removal of Varlamov with 3:01 remaining worked in Game 1, when Stastny tied the game with 13 seconds left and won it in overtime.
This time, with the Avalanche in a 6-on-4, Mikael Granlund followed his dramatic diving overtime goal in Game 3 with some daring defence. He lost his stick at one point, but he still managed to block a shot without it as the arena erupted in approval with the final seconds ticking away. The announced attendance of 19,396 was the most ever to watch a Wild playoff game.
“We’ve had some exciting games since I’ve been here in this building, but I’ve never heard anything like that tonight. That was fun,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
The Avalanche failed to score on all four power plays and fell to 1 for 15 in the series. Roy didn’t look fazed, though, even if his players were frustrated and disappointed.
“When we have the type of performance that we have from our goaltender, there’s no reason for us to not believe in ourselves, coming back home,” Roy said.
Even without suspended left wing Matt Cooke, the Wild sure weren’t missing any energy. They zipped crisp, purposeful passes all over the ice and again kept the play in the Avalanche zone for the majority of the night to raise the level of the crowd noise along with that.
The Avalanche, angered by Cooke’s act, played more physically than in the last game. Granlund was a frequent target of the rough stuff. But the quality of their play further deteriorated.
“We’re still not testing this goalie enough. We’re making him look good by taking shots from the outside and nobody being in front,” Landeskog said.
The Wild’s defence had a lot to do with that, particularly on those power plays, but the Avalanche showed little semblance of an attack and fumbled with the puck often.
“That’s part of the playoffs,” Stastny said. “We knew it was going to be a tough series. Nothing’s going to come easy.”
NOTES: The Wild’s win raised the home team’s record in the Western Conference playoffs so far to 14-1. … The Avalanche matched their playoff record for fewest shots on goal. They had 12 on June 2, 2011, against New Jersey in the Stanley Cup finals. … This was the first time in seven all-time playoff series the Wild have won their first two home games. … Avalanche-Wild playoff games have been decided by onegoal 12 out of 17 times. … MacKinnon left for the locker room in the second period, but returned soon after.