Updated: 05/01/2014 5:10 PM
Created: 04/30/2014 7:55 PM KSTP.com
By: Chris Long
The Minnesota Wild are a little weary and worn out after winning a grueling seven-game series. There's no time to rest, though. Not with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks waiting on deck.
The Wild are actually looking forward to another crack at the Blackhawks, who ended their season a year ago.
Minnesota will be heading into the series with plenty of momentum after eliminating the Colorado Avalanche on Nino Niederreiter's goal 5:02 into overtime for a 5-4 win in Game 7 on Wednesday night.
It's the first playoff series win for the Wild since 2003.
More coverage of the Wild's Game 7 win on KSTP.com:
Minnesota trailed 4-3 before Jared Spurgeon scored on a nifty play with 2:27 left in regulation. Spurgeon waited for a clear look at the goal, and then shot it over Semyon Varlamov's shoulder and off the left post.
Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley had the other goals for the Wild, who will face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the second round.
Nick Holden, Jamie McGinn, Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson scored for the Avalanche.
The Avalanche took a lead on four different occasions, only to have the Wild respond. Niederreiter won it for Minnesota on a 2-on-1 break when the forward sent a shot over Varlamov's shoulder in the fourth overtime of the series.
Bryzgalov took over in net for Kuemper midway through the third. Bryzgalov started the series but was replaced by Kuemper in Game 2.
The veteran Bryzgalov stopped a shot with his left shoulder early in the overtime, paving the way for Niederreiter's winner. It was his only save in 13:15 of action.
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See KSTP Sports' live-as-it-happened period-by-period recaps below
FINAL / OVERTIME: Minnesota 5, Colorado 4
Scoring: MIN - Neiderreiter (2)
Shots: MIN - 5 (35 total); COL - 1 (22)
Power Play: MIN - 0/0 (0/3); COL - 0/0 (1/3)
Before the overtime ice had even been scuffed, the Wild had a terrific chance as the puck bounced around in the Colorado slot.
Ilya Bryzgalov stood firm in the first few shots he faced after coming on in relief of injured Wild starting goalie Darcy Kuemper.
Immediately after, Mikael Granlund bore in all alone on Semyon Varlmaov, but couldn't beat the Avalanche keeper.
The teams exchanged cautious rushes, and several chances in the first five minutes of overtime.
Colorado had their best opportunity of overtime as two players stood - one to the side, and one in front - right on top of the Wild goal. Ryan Suter was in position to split the two, and did so, splaying flat on the ice to smother a would-be centering pass to in front of Bryzgalov.
Moments later, as the five-minute of overtime passed, the Wild swept up-ice.
Dany Heatley threaded a pass through a crowded neutral zone to Kyle Brodziak. Approaching the offensive blue line, Brodziak backhanded a pass to Nino Neiderreter on the right wing.
Neiderreiter controlled the pass, and held the puck as a Colorado defender slid skates-first to block Neiderreiter's forthcoming shot. Neiderreiter waited until the defender was flas on the ice, and with his own skates straddling the right faceoff spot, fired a hard wrist shot toward the top right corner of the Avalanche goal.
With a resounding ping, exactly the same sound Jared Spurgeon generated in tying the game late in regulation, Neiderreiter ended the game and series.
A brief video review confirmed what Wild player knew as they flooded the ice. The "ping" on Neiderreiter's shot came from the puck hitting the bar that runs along the -back- of the net, having beaten Varlamov over his glove.
The Wild win the game 5-4 in overtime, taking the series 4-3.
Bryzgalov, oddly, earned the win by making a single save in his 13 minute relief stint.
It's the first time the Wild have advanced in a postseason since 2003.
They will play Chicago in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
END PERIOD THREE: Minnesota 4, Colorado 4
Scoring: COL - Statsny (5); MIN - Neiderreiter (1); COL - Johnson (1); MIN - Spurgeon (2)
Shots: MIN - 10 (30 total); COL - 7 (21)
Power Play: MIN - 0/0 (0/3); COL - 0/0 (1/3)
Colorado immediately took the wind out of the Wild's sails with a goal in the opening minutes of the third. Paul Statsny tallied his 5th goal and 10th point of the series giving the Avalanche a 3-2 lead 2:55 into the final period.
Undeterred, the Wild responded three-and-a-half minutes later on Nino Neiderreiter's first goal of the series. On a furious rush, Neiderreiter used a very quick release from the top of the right circle to beat Semyon Varlamov into the top corner. With 13:27 go, the game was square at 3-3.
Bloomington, Minnesota native and Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson picked a perfect time to register his first goal of the series, sending panic up the spines of his homestate faithful. His wrist shot evaded Darcy Kuemper with 8:44 left in the game, putting Colorado up 4-3.
Shortly after, Kuemper was hammered behind the net for the second time in the game. He was shaken the first time earlier in the game, but this one took him out. Kuemper left the game, leaving Ilya Bryzgalov to come off the bench in relief.
With the game, series and season hanging in the balance the clock passed the three-minutes-to-go mark. The Wild looked visibly tired, but continued to generate rushes into the Avalanche zone.
Coach Mike Yeo was certainly pondering when to pull Bryzgalov in favor of the extra attacker when lightning struck.
Nino Neiderreiter was pinned behind the Avalanche net in possession of the puck. He spotted defenseman Jared Spurgeon pinching in from the right point, and slid him the puck. Spurgeon feinted a shot, causing an Avalanche defender to go to the ice and slide by. With the defender clear, Spurgeon fired a perfectly aimed and measured shot toward the top right corner of the net. The puck clattered off the post and into the net with a deafening ping, tying the game at 4-4 with 2:27 to go.
It was the fourth time in the game the Wild had answered after the Avalanche had scored.
With no threats in the final two-plus minutes, the game went to overtime tied at 4.
Whichever team scores the next goal advances to face Chicago in the second round.
END PERIOD TWO: Minnesota 2, Colorado 2
Scoring: MIN - Heatley (1)
Shots: MIN - 8 (20 total); COL - 5 (14)
Power Play: MIN - 0/2 (0/3); COL 0/2 (1/3)
Like the opening frame, there was an early penalty in the second period as well. This time it favored the Wild as Matt Duchene was called for cross-checking :33 into the period, but the Wild couldn't convert.
Scary moment for the Wild shortly after when Darcy Kuemper took a hard hit. He took a while to shake off the impact, but remained in the game.
Another Wild power play ensued after Zach Parise was high-sticked five minutes in, and while they didn't capitalize on the man-advantage, they did soon after.
Moments after the power play ended, Mikael Granlund closed in from the point and flicked a shot into traffic in front of the Avalanche net. The puck bounced to Dany Heatley who cleanly flicked the puck into the net, tying the game at 2-2 7:27 into the second.
The Wild kept Colorado without a shot for nearly the first 9 full minutes of the period. The only Avalanche shot over nearly a twenty-minute span was their goal late in the first period.
After breaking the shotless streak with a strong scoring chance for Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Koivu was called for taking Gabriel Landeskog down in the crease at 8:46 - but the Wild killed off the penalty.
The Wild continued to keep Colorado from generating shots through the midpoint of the second. After opening the game on a 8-2 shot deficit in the first seven minutes, the Wild outshot Colorado 16-2 over the next 25 minutes of play.
Minnesota has nice sustained pressure in the Colorado end for several minutes, with shots generating rebound-after-rebound off Semyon Varlamov, but Colorado was able to clear them all.
Despite the lack of shots generated offensively, the Avalanche kept earning man-advantages. Wild forward Stephane Veilleux went off for hooking with 6:16 left in the period.
Darcy Kuemper made his best save of the game amid Colorado's third power play, slamming the door on Nick Holden by shifting post-to-post just in time to block Holden's shot from close range. Colorado maintained pressure nearly the entire two minutes, but the Wild killed it off.
An extremely physical few minutes closed the period, sending the teams to the second intermission tied 2-2.
END PERIOD ONE: Minnesota 1, Colorado 2
Scoring: COL - Holden (3); MIN - Koivu (1); COL - McGinn (2)
Shots: MIN - 13; COL - 9
Power Play: MIN - 0/1; COL 1/1
Fueled by a raucous game seven home crowd, Colorado got off to a fast start and earned an early power play early when Nino Neiderreiter was called for hooking.
After Darcy Kuemper made one spectacular save, the Avalanche broke through.
With Jamie McGinn all over Kuemper, Colorado's Nick Holden had the entire net to shoot at from directly in front and buried it. The official directly behind the net initially waved the goal off, but after a brief review the goal stood giving Colorado a 1-0 lead 2:52 into the game.
The Wild earned a power play shortly after, but it was Colorado threatening shorthanded. The Wild dodged a bullet as Colorado failed to convert on a clean 2-on-1 break and a later miss from point-blank range by McGinn.
At this point, the Wild were in danger as the team to score the first goal in game 7 has gone on to win in each of the last 16 game sevens.
At the 8-minute mark, Charlie Coyle and Mikko Koivu connected to halt the Colorado onslaught. From behind the net, Coyle fed to Koivu on in the right faceoff circle. The Wild captain delivered a pinpoint shot to the top corner behind Semyon Varlamov to tie the game at 1-1.
After trailing in shots 8-2 seven minutes into the game, the Wild went on a run of eight unanswered shots in the next five minutes. But Colorado snapped the run with a goal.
Despite the Wild controlling the flow, Avalanche rookie Joey Hishon centered off the boards to Jamie McGinn deep in the crease where he one-timed the feed sharply through Kuemper's five-hole to make it 2-1 Colorado with 6:22 remaining in the period.
The Wild kept the Avalanche without another shot for the rest of the period, meaning their only shot in the final 12-minutes of the period was the goal.
If it were a boxing match, the judges may have awarded the period to the Wild, but as the teams skated off for the first intermission the scoreboard showed a 2-1 Colorado lead.
The last time the Minnesota Wild played in a Game Seven was 2003.
In the opening round that year, Andrew Brunette scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history - an overtime winner to beat Colorado.
The goalie Brunette beat? Current Colorado head coach Patrick Roy, who retired after that season.
The Wild went on to win another 7-game series against Vancouver in 2003.
A win tonight in against Colorado would advance the Wild to face Chicago in the second round.
*Refresh or re-visit this page shortly after each period to see recaps and photos from Wild vs Avalanche
*Click this link to see our story on Wild fans preparing for the game in Saint Paul and Zach Parise's final thoughts before the puck drops on Game 7
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