ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Wild were denied at the net by Semyon Varlamov time after time, a 44-shot barrage in regulation that resulted in, alas, zero goals.
Coach Mike Yeo jokingly wondered aloud at the third intermission whether his team was “psychotic” to put itself through such angst. After all, the way this sport often goes, the next score in the scoreless game had the strong potential to be one of those bad-bounce goals that make a night of domination go for naught.
Mikael Granlund made sure that didn’t happen.
Granlund’s diving goal 5:08 into overtime gave the Wild a 1-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 on Monday. Minnesota pulled within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series after Varlamov stopped 45 of 46 shots, a franchise playoff record for shots on goal by the Wild.
“You see it so many times where teams do so well and get chance after chance after chance and then a fluky one goes in against you. Luckily. that wasn’t the case,” said Wild left wing Zach Parise.
Granlund, who had a career-high seven shots on goal, sliced toward the crease and moved parallel to the net with some slick stick work. Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, who saved Game 1 by racing to swat away a shot on an empty net, lost his balance and tried unsuccessfully to dive at Granlund, who then began to fall forward. Granlund extended his stick to knock the puck in, and the celebration ensued.
“We were playing really good. We were creating chances. We got rewarded. We need to just keep playing like that,” Granlund said.
Game 4 is at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, when the Avalanche will be without defenseman Tyson Barrie. He took a knee-to-knee hit in the second period that yielded a penalty for Matt Cooke and a medial collateral ligament injury for Barrie. Coach Patrick Roy said he’ll be need four to six weeks to recover.
“Knee on Tyson Barrie is without a doubt the play of the game. We lost our best offensive defenseman,” Roy said, expressing confidence the NHL will suspend Cooke.
Darcy Kuemper made 22 saves, and the Wild goalie in his first career playoff start was just as good as Varlamov. He said he had a feeling this would be a one-goal game.
“I just tried to stick with it and make the saves I had to,” Kuemper said. “My teammates were obviously playing unbelievable and making it easy on me. I was just trying to do my job and stay sharp.”
After the Avalanche line of Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny and Gabe Landeskog combined for 17 points and seven goals over the first two games, the Wild kept them from doing any damage. The Wild shuffled their lines, with veteran Dany Heatley’s move off the scratch list the most notable change, and played their style. They didn’t get enough guys to the net for long rebounds Varlamov has a tendency to produce, but they completely controlled the flow, even if there wasn’t much to show for it.
“We were a little on our heels. We could’ve been a little bit better, played a little more simple,” MacKinnon said.
After wasting a 4-2 lead in Game 1, giving up the tying goal with 13 seconds left to Stastny, as well as the overtime winner, the Wild badly needed to recapture some energy. They did from the opening faceoff, firing up a crowd that’s been waiting 11 years for a playoff series victory.
The Wild finally figured out how to contain the super-fast MacKinnon, forcing the 18-year-old wonder to have to stay in his own zone. They had the Avalanche on their heels for the majority of regulation. Cooke was all over the ice in his 100th career playoff game, colliding with just about every white Colorado jersey.
“We didn’t play up to what we’re capable of, there’s no doubt. But I’d rather give them credit. They played well. They were sharp. They were the better team on the ice,” Roy said, adding yet more praise for Varlamov.
Thanks to Granlund, the Wild avoided the huge hole.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. This is a huge win for us, not only to get the win but the way that we played the game, the way that we played our game,” Yeo said. “We know that next game is going to be even bigger and a tougher test, and we’re going to have to be real good. But there’s no question that we needed this one.”
PENGUINS 4, BLUE JACKETS 3
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen scored in a span of 2:13 of the third period to revive Pittsburgh in the victory over Columbus.
Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series thanks to the goals on three consecutive shots.
Brooks Orpik added a goal in the final seconds of the second period as the Penguins stormed back from deficits of 2-0 and 3-1. Marc-Andre Fleury had 17 saves.
Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson staked the Blue Jackets to an early lead in the opening 3:18, with Cam Atkinson getting credit for a goal early in the final period that stretched the lead to 3-1.
Game 4 is Wednesday night in Columbus.
BLACKHAWKS 2, BLUES 0
CHICAGO — Corey Crawford made 34 saves in his third career postseason shutout, and the Blackhawks got back into their playoff series with the Blues.
Jonathan Toews scored in the first period and Marcus Kruger added an empty-netter as Chicago bounced back after a pair of overtime losses in St. Louis. Toews’ 21st postseason goal was only the second score by a Blackhawks forward in the series.
Ryan Miller shook off another slow start and made 23 saves for St. Louis.
Game 4 is Wednesday night.
STARS 3, DUCKS 0
DALLAS — Kari Lehtonen had 37 saves, with some tremendous stops, for his first career postseason victory, and the Stars won their first home playoff game in six years.
Dallas captain Jamie Benn skated out of the penalty box to score late in the first period, and 19-year-old rookie Valeri Nichushkin added a goal for the Stars in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series. The top-seeded Ducks won each of the first two games at home, both one-goal results.
Game 4 is Wednesday night.
Lehtonen, who held up through five Anaheim power plays, had a kick save near the end of one of those in the final minute of the first period. That came right before Benn came out of the penalty box and skated toward the other end for the winning goal.
By wire sources