DENVER – Patrick Roy showed as much boldness behind the bench as he once did as a Hall of Fame goaltender.
The first-year Colorado coach made some daring moves late in the game—like pulling his goaltender with 3:01 remaining—and yet the ploy worked out.
It’s been that kind of season for Roy and his youthful squad.
Paul Stastny scored 7:27 into overtime after tying the game with 13.4 seconds remaining in regulation, lifting the Avalanche to a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild in the opener of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Thursday night.
“We believe in ourselves,” said Roy, who won two Stanley Cup titles for the Avalanche as a player and helped guide the team back to the playoffs for the first time in four years.
“Sometimes, you’re not playing your best game, but the quality of our team is we found a way to win this game. That’s what you want in the playoffs.”
Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn also added goals for Colorado.
Stastny beat Ilya Bryzgalov with a close-in wrist shot in overtime, the same type of play Stastny used to tie the game in regulation.
Not that the Avalanche were too surprised by the late rally because, “we’ve done it all year,” Stastny said.
It’s becoming their calling card.
“Once again, it shows character in this dressing room,” Landeskog said. “There’s no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home ice advantage and we weren’t going to let this one slide.”
This was a stunner for the Wild.
“It’s really disappointing. We’re in the driver’s seat,” said Zach Parise, who had two assists.
“We made some mistakes and it was in our net and that’s the game.”
Erik Haula, Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Kyle Brodziak scored for the Wild, who try to bounce back Saturday in Game 2.
“You have to learn from it,” Suter said. “Learn that the game’s not over until it’s over and you have the finish the games.”
Roy made a bold move with just over three minutes remaining, pulling Semyon Varlamov for an extra skater. Erik Johnson saved a potential empty-net goal with over a minute left as he raced down the ice and slapped away the puck just before it crossed the goal line.
Moments later, Stastny beat Bryzgalov with a shot over his shoulder—the capacity crowd erupted.
The Wild took a 4-2 lead after a three-goal second period. They spent the final period trying to play a prevent defence, not allowing the Avalanche to take advantage of their quickness.
O’Reilly stole the puck from Brodziak and slid it over to McGinn, who batted it past Bryzgalov to make it a one-goal game at 12:47.
Roy hardly played things by the book as the team tied a franchise record with 52 wins in the regular season. That gambler’s mentality certainly didn’t change in the post-season. Roy said before the game that it was his job to “have a ‘B’ plan and a ‘C’ plan in our pocket” in case of an emergency.
In this case, it was pulling Varlamov with plenty of time remaining, something Roy has several times this season.
“Almost did it at four minutes,” Roy said, smiling.
Roy’s strategy nearly backfired when the Wild sent a puck rolling toward the goal. Johnson chased it down and knocked the puck away before it crossed the line. He also bumped the goal off its moorings. Matt Cooke took a shot on the goal with Johnson lying in front of the net, which upset a few Avalanche players and led to some pushing and shoving.
A big play overshadowed a bit by Stastny’s theatrics.
“What a comeback,” Johnson said. “That’s the kind of stuff you dream about when you’re a kid, winning playoff games like that.”
Although the underdog in the series, the Wild were actually one of the hottest teams down the stretch as they fought just to get into the playoffs. Bryzgalov provided a spark after he was acquired from Edmonton in early March. He went 7-1-3 down the stretch.
But Bryzgalov has been inconsistent in the post-season over his career. He’s 17-20 and has allowed 109 goals.
“I’ve got no problem with his game,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said of Bryzgalov. “We’re all sitting here disappointed we didn’t win the hockey game.”
NOTES: Haula scored in his playoff debut. … Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon finished with three assists. … The Avs said that according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Stastny is the first player in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the game-tying goal in the last 15 seconds of regulation, and then score the winning goal in OT.