Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild Game Five Thoughts (Stanley Cup Playoffs Round One)

Final Score: Colorado Avalanche – 4 Minnesota Wild – 3 (OT) (Avalanche lead series 3-2)

*If game one wasn’t enough to give Avalanche fans a heart attack, this one might’ve done it.

*Let’s start with the end of regulation, since that’s what everyone will talk about. With the Avs down 3-2, Patrick Roy, as always, pulled the goal with plenty of time left. It looked like the Minnesota Wild would put the puck into the empty net as the Wild player had a step on Andre Benoit, but Benoit impeded his progress by using a free hand. The ref didn’t make the call

*Immediately after Benoit’s “hold” Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny broke up the ice with the puck. MacKinnon carried the puck past the blueline and, on replay, it was a very close call on whether or not Stastny’s back foot stayed on the line. The ref ruled that the play was onside, MacKinnon feathered it to Stastny, who put a shot on net, got his own rebound to the side of the net, threw it out in front, and P.A. Parenteau fired the puck past Darcy Kuemper from the slot, to tie things at 3-3.

*Parenteau has been quiet all series, so it was nice of him to finally get on the board.

*Did Benoit get away with a hold? Possibly. Did Stastny get away with an offsides? That one was closer. What ultimately matters is that neither of them were called. Let’s be honest, the refs haven’t been good all series. Wild fans, players, and coaches can complain all they want about the non-holding call and the missed offsides, but Avs fans, players, and coaches likely have some complaints of their own (the missed Delay of Game call at the end of of game three, Cooke only getting a minor for his knee on Barrie; just to name a couple).

*What ultimately mattered was that the Avs tied the game and sent it to overtime.

*In overtime, the Wild had the first good chance of the period. After a scramble in front, a loose puck came to Jared Spurgeon, who had a wide open net to shoot at, but Nick Holden got in front of it and blocked the puck to keep the game alive.

*Moments later, the Avs put some pressure on the Wild. It looked like the Wild had a clear, but Ryan Wilson held the puck in the Minnesota zone and got it to Gabriel Landeskog along the boards. Landeskog passed it along to MacKinnon who, after losing it in some skates, threw it over Kuemper and into the net.

*I’ve always said that MacKinnon reminds me a lot of Jonathan Toews. Well, one night after Toews gave his team a 3-2 series lead in overtime, MacKinnon did the same thing for his team.

*That was the first of quite possibly many playoff OT goals for MacKinnon.

*The rest of the game had its ups and downs.

*The first period ended in a 0-0 tie, but the Avs definitely showed more life than they did in Minnesota, which was obviously a good sign.

*Cody McLeod got the Avs on the board first in the second period with a shorthanded goal. Ryan O’Reilly walked into the zone and then feather the puck on net, which was redirected by McLeod and into the net.

*The Wild scored moments later though, just after the power play, when an Avs player lost their stick. Minnesota controlled the puck in the offensive zone and got a deflection by Matt Moulson in front of the net.

*The tie game didn’t last long though. After matching penalties by Landeskog and Mikko Koivu to put the game at 4-on-4, MacKinnon used his speed with the extra ice, entered the offensive zone, laid the puck off to Andre Benoit, who threw it on net and got a deflection from Nick Holden.

*The Avs took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but it didn’t last long.

*Zach Parise scored on a 3-on-2 rush after MacKinnon and Stastny got bunched together in the neutral zone. It was a perfect shot by Parise, off the post and in.

*Two minutes later, Kyle Brodziak gave the Wild a 3-2 lead after the Avs had to deal with another player without a stick. Jan Hejda lost his stick, had to use Marc Andre Cliche’s, failed to clear the puck, and then Minnesota took advantage of Cliche without a stick with a seeing eye shot by Brodziak.

*Minnesota held the lead until the final minute, when Parenteau tied it up. They even had a chance to end things with a power play after Landeskog was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for spraying Kuemper with ice on a frozen puck. While it was the correct call, it was pretty weak because if Landeskog didn’t stop, he could’ve run over Kuemper.

*The Avs power play was once again pretty brutal. They had a chance to make it 3-1 before the third period, but failed to capitalize. Luckily the penalty kill made up for things, not only killing off all 3 penalties, but scoring a shorthanded goal.

*Joey Hishon, if he can stay healthy, looks like he’s going to be a very good player for the Avs. You can see the talent. It’s hard playing your first two NHL games in the playoffs, especially when you’re a talented player who is not getting much playing time. But Hishon has done well. It’ll be interesting to see him with a full training camp and a calmer situation.

*Nick Holden was the unsung hero in this one. He not only scored the Avs second goal of the game, the first goal of the series by an Avalanche defenseman, but he also made the big save in OT.

*I continue to really like Max Talbot’s game. He’s the Avs playoff veteran and the only guy in the lineup who has a ring. It shows. He’s nice and calm with the puck and always seems to make the smart play.

*Ryan O’Reilly was great in this game. He kept a lot of pucks in the offensive zone, played smart defensively, was strong on the puck, and made the nice pass to McLeod on the goal. O’Reilly is the type of guy who is just outstanding in the playoffs. Plays hard, plays smart, and keeps things calm. He also has offensive talent, which certainly doesn’t hurt. He doesn’t have the experience that Talbot has, but he’s just as valuable.

*I still think Stefan Elliott should be playing in this series instead of Wilson or Nate Guenin, but I thought Wilson played a pretty good game. The keep in at the blue line that led to MacKinnon’s winner was huge and he was in good position throughout the night. Guenin wasn’t quite as good, but he wasn’t noticeably bad either. I still say Elliott should play.

*A guy who was pretty bad though was Jan Hejda. Either he’s showing his age in this series or he’s injured. It’s probably a bit of both. Remember that he had hand trouble at the end of the season and if this weren’t the playoffs, he might not be playing. But he is playing, and he has to play better. He’s -5 in the series and that doesn’t even highlight all of his bad plays.

*MacKinnon got off to a pretty poor start. It looked like he was trying too hard to make things happen, which led to some unforced errors. It’s safe to say that he turned things around.

*Varlamov was once again outstanding. He gave up three goals, but he didn’t stand a chance on any of them.

*The Avs allowed two goals when a player didn’t have a stick. I’ve always wondered why the player doesn’t just skate to the bench and grab a new stick when that happens. Sure it gives the opponents a quick 2-4 second power play, but it’s better than standing around and looking lost while the opponents essentially still have a power play. Roy has done a lot of unconvential things in his first year as the head coach, he needs to adopt this philosphy.

*The series shifts back to Minnesota, where the Avs haven’t been good. They might get Matt Duchene back for game six, which would be huge, but the team flat out has to play better than they did in games three and four if they want to close out this series.

Next Game: Game Six at Minnesota Wild on Monday

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