DENVER – Sometimes, it’s hard for the Colorado Avalanche to remember that Nathan MacKinnon is just 18 years old and only a rookie.
Because he keeps coming through in big moments.
The speedy MacKinnon scored 3:27 into overtime after P.A. Parenteau tied the game late in regulation, helping the Avalanche rally for a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night and a 3-2 lead in the first-round series.
“The kid’s special,” Parenteau said. “I know it’s cliche to say, but it’s pretty impressive to see. … This is the kid we want on our side.”
MacKinnon is having quite the series, with two goals and eight assists.
Surprised at the poise of his No. 1 pick?
“We knew when we drafted him what kind of player we were drafting,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said as the series switches back to Minnesota for Game 6 on Monday. “He had a solid game.”
A memorable one, too. After all, it’s not every day a rookie scores an OT winner in the playoffs.
MacKinnon corralled the puck and poked it past Darcy Kuemper’s glove with two defenders near him. Soon after, MacKinnon was mobbed by teammates.
He deflected the credit, though, saying it should go to Paul Stastny or Gabriel Landeskog for their roles on the play.
“Paulie forced the puck down in their end, Landy got it on the half-wall and I was screaming for it,” MacKinnon said. “Definitely a good play by him.”
MacKinnon’s time in the spotlight was made possible by Parenteau, who scored with 1:14 left after Roy pulled goaltender Semyon Varlamov with 2:22 remaining. The strategy worked out again, just like in Game 1.
There may have been some controversy on Parenteau’s tying goal, though, with Stastny possibly being offsides on the play.
At least, that was the Wild’s take.
“They missed the call and we paid for it,” Minnesota defenceman Ryan Suter said. “No excuses. We have to play better in overtime. We’ve got to get more pressure on the kid (MacKinnon) when he comes to the net.”
Wild coach Mike Yeo is hoping the breaks equal out.
“I would say we’re due for, I don’t want to say luck, but for stuff to go our way a little bit,” Yeo said. “I’m not going to dwell on what happened in the game.”
When his team trails, Roy has been rather liberal in pulling Varlamov all season long, preferring to send out an extra skater with plenty of time left on the clock. It worked in the series opener, as Stastny scored with 13.4 seconds remaining in regulation and then added the OT winner.
“We believe in ourselves more when we’re down a goal,” Landeskog said. “It’s exciting to be a part of. It’s not something we want to make a habit of doing.”
Nick Holden and Cody McLeod also added goals for the Avalanche.
Kyle Brodziak, Zach Parise and Matt Moulson scored for the Wild. Two of Minnesota’s goals came after a Colorado defenceman shattered their stick and had to play without one.
Parise tied the game at 2 early in the third when he glided down the left side and beat Varlamov with a shot over his glove.
Nearly two minutes later, Brodziak gave the Wild the lead after defenceman Jan Hejda broke his stick and struggled to cover anyone.
McLeod had a short-handed goal at 8:04 of the second period, when he redirected a pass from Ryan O’Reilly past Kuemper.
The lead was short-lived as the Wild answered 1:13 later when Moulson tipped in a shot by Jared Spurgeon from the blue line. On the play, Maxime Talbot gave his stick to defenceman Andre Benoit after his broke and then Jamie McGinn passed his to Talbot, leaving McGinn without a stick.
The Avalanche may soon have leading scorer Matt Duchene back in the lineup as he skated with the team Saturday morning. Duchene has been sidelined since hurting his left knee when he ran into a teammate against San Jose on March 29.
Expect Duchene back for Game 6?
“We’re going to take a serious look at it,” Roy said.
NOTES: The Wild were without suspended LW Matt Cooke for a second game after his knee-on-knee hit knocked Avs D Tyson Barrie out for at least a month. … The Avs are 1 for 18 on the power play. … According to the Avs, MacKinnon (18 years, 237 days) is the second-youngest player in Stanley Cup playoff history to score an OT goal. Don Gallinger was 17 years, 339 days when he scored an OT winner for Boston in 1943.