Wild win dramatic game 7, seek to carry momentum to Chicago
Wednesday night showcased some of the best game 7 playoff hockey any of us could ask for.
While most of the nation was most likely checking out the NBA playoffs, the NHL served us all with a gem. The Minnesota Wild came into Colorado and defeated the Avalanche in a game that will be remembered for its rollercoaster of emotions and back and forth scoring.
The overtime thriller was won on a slapshot from the unlikely star, right wing Nino Niederreiter. The incredible goal was scored just five minutes into the overtime period.
In a game in which the Avalanche maintained the upper hand in scoring most of the contest, it was the Wild who had the last laugh.
From the very beginning of the game, Colorado had the momentum. It was clear that the Wild looked a bit shaky at the beginning of this crucial road test. Just three minutes into the game, Nick Holden gave the Avalanche the edge with a quick score.
Or was it really a score? In a series that was tainted to a degree with some incorrect and missed calls, Colorado once again caught a break. During the score, one of the Colorado players was standing in front of the goalie with a skate clearly in the goal. Even after the officials went to review it, they still claimed it to be a score.
Twitter, at this point, was buzzing with comments from both fan bases. It surely did seem as if the goal should have been negated.
But the game still went on. Once the nerves finally settled back down, Minnesota soon got on the board with a goal from Mikko Koivu.
However, much as the story went throughout regulation, the Wild had to quickly play catchup again. Just five minutes later, with less than ten minutes remaining in the first period, the Avalanche answered back. Jamie McGinn scored what should have been Colorado’s first legitimate goal. Well, from the minds of Minnesota fans at least.
The second period was a defensive battle. Both teams were able to get some solid hits on each other. In fact, the intensity of the hits seemed to rise as the minutes began the tick off of the clock. With emotions starting to rev up at this point, the second period actually had the most penalties of any period in the game.
The second period was much needed for the Wild though. With less ten minutes remaining in the period, the Wild were able to tie it up with a beautiful goal from Dany Heatley. At this point, it looked as if Minnesota had regained all of the lost momentum.
Now enter the instant classic that was the third period. This period, along with overtime, exemplified what NHL playoff hockey is all about.
With Minnesota riding the momentum of the second period, Colorado’s Paul Stastny immediately ceased it. His goal came just three minutes into the third period, sending a definite punch to the gut to Minnesota.
Four minutes later, it was Nino Niederreiter rushing to the rescue with one of his two critical goals. The Wild looked rejuvenated, as their season remained alive.
But, before you knew it, the Avalanche were back on the board again. Erik Johnson scored what surely looked like the dagger to the Wild’s hopes. Even with nine minutes still remaining, the Wild looked defeated after that score.
Never doubt the State of Hockey. While Wild fans were brushing their teeth for bed and preparing for work the next morning, the team was still battling.
With only minutes remaining before the Wild would have had to pull the goalie in desperation, it happened. Spurgeon the surgeon did his magic!
The defenseman secured the puck, allowed for the Colorado defenseman to slide by on his side, and fired the shot from the right. An instant later, the Wild looked as if they were on top of the world. When Spurgeon scored the tying goal, the looks on the Avalanche defenders said it all.
The Wild knew this feeling. Earlier in the series, the Wild lost an overtime game in which they gave up the tying goal with just seconds remaining in regulation. The pain is hard to forget.
The rest was history. For the first time in the series, the road team had won. And it could not have come at a better moment.
Wild fans can only hope that the euphoria of this moment does not distract the team coming into a matchup with the Blackhawks next. Expect Minnesota coach Mike Yeo to take charge in commanding the focus of his players moving forward.
Minnesota travels to the fifth seeded Chicago team tonight to start the series. This Chicago team is one that defensively should pose a tougher matchup for the Wild than the Avalanche did. The Wild were fortunate enough to control the puck and number of shots taken during most of this past series. With the Blackhawks, the Wild will have to make their limited shot attempts count.
This season’s NHL playoffs have taught us all to expect the unexpected. Even the LA Kings’ series victory over the Sharks was incredible. Not often, in any sport, do you see a team recover from a 3-0 deficit. I think I speak for everyone when I plead for the NHL to keep giving us this gift of a postseason.