Hockey / Sports

Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper (35) cools off during Game 6 against the Colorado Avalanche, in the NHL Western Conference quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Monday, April 28, 2014. The Wild defeated the Avalanche, 5-2. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Parise's two goals lift Wild past Avs 5-2; series tied

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- And there will be a Game 7 Wednesday night in Denver.

The Minnesota Wild avoided a season-ending loss Monday night by recovering from a blown two-goal first period lead to beat Colorado, 5-2, and send the Western Conference quarterfinals back to Colorado.

In an anxiety-filled hockey game that featured an incredible pace, Zach Parise scored his second goal of the game with 6 minutes, 29 seconds left to help Minnesota stave off elimination.

For a long while, it looked like the Wild was staring at an offseason of regret.

There were those to overtime losses in Denver, both coming in games where the Wild had late leads but couldn't score into five-plus minutes worth of empty nets.

Monday, it accomplished that -- twice! -- when Jason Pominville buried his first of the series followed up by Marco Scandella doing the same.

Monday, the Wild nearly was forced to look back all summer at how it had a chance to take a 3-0 lead on a 5-on-3 and wound up giving up a shorthanded goal right after the two-man advantage was over.

But with virtually the entire lower-bowl's worth of stressed fans standing for the entire third period, Parise capped a career-high four-point night by redirecting Mikko Koivu's shot from the blue line for the winning goal.

Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves for his third win of the series, Mikael Granlund also scored a goal and Koivu and Ryan Suter had two assists each. The Wild is 2-0 all-time in Game 7s and will be looking for its first road victory of the series so it can advance to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.

The Wild emerged with exactly the start it wanted.

Parise scored the fastest playoff goal in Wild history 49 seconds in when Suter's shot deflected in off Parise's inner thigh. Granlund made it 2-0 less than nine minutes later by sailing a shot through Varlamov's legs.

But with the chance to take a three-goal strangle-hold on a 67-second 5-on-3, the Wild failed royally.

All season long, the 5-on-3 killed momentum for the Wild. The Wild's big guns converted 2 of 10, but Monday's nearly helped kill the season.

With Paul Stastny in the box for slashing Cody McCormick in the groin and Andre Benoit in for delay of game, the Wild couldn't put one behind Varlamov. Then, in the worst possible timing, Suter shanked a shot just as Stastny escaped the box.

Ryan O'Reilly corralled the puck, hit Stastny with a head-man pass and the skilled center easily beat Kuemper blocker-side on a breakaway with 3:01 left in the first. It was the second time in two games the Avalanche scored shorthanded.

The groan in the arena was audible.

There was an ominous feeling in the air throughout the first intermission and the Wild didn't look like a same team to start the second.

Matt Moulson, who had a sub-par game, finally took a slashing penalty and the Wild's penalty kill, which was 19 for 20 at that point in the series, caved for the first time in the series with its goalie in net.

O'Reilly fed pinching defenseman Nick Holden with a cross-crease pass and the tying goal.

The Wild was outshot 14-6 in the second period. Remember, the Wild thoroughly dominated the Avalanche during home victories last week, including allowing a franchise-record-low 12 shots in Game 4.

But Monday was a different game. The Avalanche came out with better legs, got cleanly through the neutral zone with long stretch passes and spent multiple long shifts in the Wild end.

It also helped that leading scorer Matt Duchene returned from a knee injury. He began the night on the fourth line but was elevated to the second line with O'Reilly and P.A. Parenteau by the end of the first.

Besides the failed 5-on-3, the Wild just couldn't execute offensively. The Wild couldn't convert a 3-on-1 in the first or second periods, not even getting a shot off on the Koivu-led one when he emerged from the penalty box in the first.

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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