Announcer Mike Haynes has always maintained that Joe Sakic is the best clutch player to ever play the game. Super Joe entered Minnesota the all time leader in playoff OT goals with seven. He left with eight.
Haynes, who is missing the playoffs in order to undergo major surgery on a basilar artery aneurysm, would have been very pleased with how his team performed last night.
It's the kind of game that makes you understand why players will play through broken arms, groin tears, and any other kind of injury you can think of. It's the playoffs.
Replacing Mike Haynes was former Colorado announcer John Kelly, the current announcer for the St. Louis Blues. He's most famous for his Thank You, Thank You, Thank You chant after a huge goal. Thankfully, he got a chance to use it.
Both teams came out hitting, a trend that continued for the rest of the game. The Wild dominated the first ten minutes of play, not letting the Avs get a sniff of the offensive zone. They outshot the Avs 11-2 in the first but were 0/2 on the power play. Jose Theodore came up huge, including a few big saves when the Wild had the man advantage.
The second period was a bit closer in when it comes to the shot total, but the only think that counts is the scoreboard. Kurt Sauer put the Avs ahead on a beautiful chip shot over Backstrom's glove. Sakic and Wolski picked up the assists. Later, Ryan Smyth took advantage of the only Avalanche power play, scoring on a tip-in from Finger and Brunette.
Smyth is a key player for the Avalanche. If he gets rolling, that adds an extra dimension to Colorado's offensive game.
Into the third, it was clear what the Wild planned to do. Down 2-0, they were going to dump the puck in, and start knocking the snot out of the Avalanche. The strategy worked. In a three minute span, they scored two goals, including one on the power play, and the game was tied with just over 13 minutes to go.
Turning Point (Sort Of)
At this point, Joel Quenville used his timeout to try and calm things down. But he didn't even talk to the players. He let the energy die down and this proved to be a smart move.
The Avs finally started exerting their offensive game on Minnesota and had several golden chances.
David Jones had a goal called off when replays showed he kicked the puck in. Initially, it looked as if Ryan Smyth might have gotten a stick on it, but the referees made the right call.
Milan Hejduk hit the crossbar and the goal post on two consecutive shots.
Ryan Smyth's tip was reviewed. A Wild player covered the puck with his glove in the crease and it appeared as if the player might have moved his hand across the line. The refs waved the goal off but did award Smyth a penalty shot.
On the penalty shot, Smyth was stopped by Backstrom with a little over 2 minutes remaining.
Playoff overtime is one of the most dramatic moments in all of sports. Any one shot can end it. Tyler Arnason had a glorious chance, putting a puck just over the empty net.
Jose Theodore came up huge, stopping a Brent Burns shot on a 2-on-1 break.
Then, eleven minutes into the OT, Ruslan Salei put the puck on net which Sakic managed to get a stick on and put over Niklas Backstrom for the game-winning goal. The goal was hit eight playoff OT winner, extending his record over Maurice Richard. And as John Kelly put it, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
It was an amazing game, an amazing win, and the Avs lead the series 1-0.
Jose Theodore was absolutely phenomenal. Making 28 saves on 30 shots, Theodore was the biggest reason (besides possibly Sakic's goal) that the Avs won this game. He has so much confidence right now and is giving the Avs a great chance to win every game. When the puck is on its way to the net, Avalanche fans no longer worry about a strange bounce or a bad goal. This is the best Jose has played since his Hart Trophy.
The refs weren't what you would call favorable to the Avalanche. Six penalties were called on the Avs while just two were called on the Wild. Hannan took the bulk of the minutes, racking up four for the game. But there were some plays that the Wild should have been called on. Burns slashing Forsberg's ankle, a cross-check on Jones, a bad hit on Laperriere. But no calls were made. One of the referees included Don VanMassenhoven, one of the best in the NHL, and since I'm not an expert, I won't speculate as to why the calls were not made.
Mark Parrish was injured in the first period. He did not return.
The Avalanche defensemen need to be praised. All of them did a superb job shutting down Gaborik, Rolston, and Demetra. Adam Foote and Jeff Finger were especially good. All of them played mistake free hockey and made smart plays in the offensive zone.
The power play continues to excel. The Avs went 1/1 on their only chance.
Joel Quenville did well with balancing minutes. Cody McLeod played the fewest at 10:47 while Paul Stastny lead the Avs with just over 26 total minutes. This is much better than the Wild, who had two defensmen playing 30+ minutes. It's a long series and conditioning is critical.
Three Stars of the Game
In the next post, the regular season champion will finally be announced. We will have both a playoff champ and then a "total season champ." That will factor in the playoff points with the regular season points.
1. Jose Theodore (28 saves, including robbery in the OT and power plays)
2. Ryan Smyth (Sparked the Avs all night long, got going with a big goal)
3. Adam Foote (Did a great job stopping Gaborik from doing anything in this one)
Game 2 of this series will be played on Friday at 9 PM EST. The game will be shown on Versus.
Last Night...In The Playoffs
(7) Calgary defeated (2) San Jose
3-2 (Calgary leads series 1-0)
(2) Pittsburgh defeated (7) Ottawa
4-0 (Pittsburgh leads series 1-0)
(5) New York defeated (4) New Jersey
4-1 (New York leads series 1-0)
Tonight...In The Playoffs
(1) Detroit vs (8) Nashville
Game 1 - 7 PM EST - Versus
(2) San Jose vs (7) Calgary
Game 2 - 10 PM EST
Calgary Leads Series 1-0
(4) Anaheim vs (5) Dallas
Game 1 - 10 PM EST - Versus
(1) Montreal vs (8) Boston
Game 1- 7 PM EST
Try To Watch
Calgary and San Jose will be the first teams to play their second game. The Sharks need to win in order to avoid the 2-0 hole heading back to Calgary.
Make sure you watch these highlights!