Updated: 04/29/2014 4:55 PM
Created: 04/28/2014 8:18 PM KSTP.com
By: Chris Long
The Minnesota Wild gave Zach Parise all that money for games like this. Parise signed that megadeal two years ago for games even bigger than this.
They forced at least one more with a furious finish.
Parise scored early and late on tipped shots, and the Wild tacked on two empty-net goals for a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night that sent the first-round playoff series to a decisive Game 7.
"It's one of those nights where you just want to keep touching it and keep having the puck," said Parise, who added two assists for a career-playoff-high four points.
The teams will meet in Denver on Wednesday night, with the winner taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference semifinals.
"We don't have any time to hang our heads here and feel sorry for ourselves," Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog said. "We're just going to get right back on the horse here and get ready for Game 7."
Ah, Game 7. An already-tight series will produce one final dramatic performance.
"We didn't sign here to win a first-round game. We look at the big picture," said Parise, who joined close friend Ryan Suter in signing 13-year, $98 million contracts with the Wild two seasons ago.
The Wild were in trouble at the second intermission after what Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said might have been his team's best period of the whole series.
Parise scored just 49 seconds into the game on a power play and Mikael Granlund made it 2-0 later in the first period, but a costly turnover by Suter at the end of a failed 5-on-3 situation led to a short-handed goal for the Avalanche when Paul Stastny scored for the fourth time in the series.
Nick Holden got the tying goal in the second period to stop the power-play skid for the Avalanche, who had been denied by a resurgent Wild penalty-kill unit in 19 of 20 previous opportunities in the series. The Wild stumbled through to the second intermission, lacking the edge they had at home throughout Games 3 and 4 and in the first period of Game 6, and the atmosphere in the building became anxious, with one more goal by the Avalanche holding the power to end the home team's season.
So Wild coach Mike Yeo gave his team a spark by reuniting Parise on the first line with center Mikko Koivu, who had two assists.
"I think we started to get a little bit of fear in our game. Not necessarily afraid of them, just afraid maybe of what we were losing," Yeo said, adding: "Both of those guys were leading the charge up front and for me, their determination, their kind of get-after-it attitude, I wanted those guys going out together."
Parked in the crease with the season on the line, Parise took a shove in the back from goalie Semyon Varlamov and then outmuscled defenseman Erik Johnson for position on Koivu's shot from behind the circle that he knocked in with his stick with 6:29 left in the game.
Roy pulled Varlamov with 2:44 remaining, and this time the daring move backfired after it led to tying goals for the Avalanche in Games 1 and 5. Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella found the back of the net for the Wild, and the celebration was on.
Matt Duchene returned to the Avalanche lineup and notched an assist in extensive time on the power play, after missing the last month due to a left knee injury. The Avalanche leader with 70 points during the regular season, Duchene wasn't cleared for action until minutes before faceoff.
"He was flying out there. He was playing well. He was playing hard," Roy said.
He wasn't the only one. Ryan O'Reilly had two assists, and the Avalanche refused to express any frustration afterward, even though they'll be in an elimination situation for the first time in the series.
"If that's what it's going to need to be, then that's what it's going to need to be," Avalanche right wing P.A. Parenteau said. "It's been a battle back and forth with the Wild. We're lucky we have the home ice advantage, but we're going to have to be ready."
NOTES: The Wild went 18-4-2 when Parise scored a goal in the regular season. ... Duchene said he felt all right: "You've got to learn to trust an injury like that coming back, and as the game wore on I felt a lot more confident with it. There's still a long ways to go."
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
KSTP Sports Live Period-By-Period Updates:
FINAL - Colorado 2, Minnesota 5
Scoring: MIN - Parise (3); MIN - Pominville (1 - EN); MIN - Scandella (1 - EN)
Shots: COL - 3 (23 total); MIN - 8 (23)
Power Play: COL - 0/1 (1/4); MIN - 0/0 (1/3)
The third period began cautious and intense, with both teams having a few fairly good chances.
The Wild saw a couple open chances in front, but fired shots into Semyon Varlamov.
Clayton Stoner was called for interference in front of the Wild net five minutes into the period, giving Colorado a power play which nearly yielded the go-ahead goal. Darcy Kuemper held his ground while the Wild penalty-killers did a nice job denying Colorado access to the front of the net.
The first half of the period was fairly tentative, as the teams only combined for six shots, 4 by Minnesota and two for Colorado.
With under seven minutes to go - the Wild were amid a strong sustained possession. Ryan Suter kept a puck in at the point, and fought a defender off long enough for Mikko Koivu to take possession. Hovering just inside the point, Koivu fired a slapshot on net which was picked out of mid-air by Zach Parise. The puck deflected past Semyon Varlamov for a 3-2 Wild lead with 6:29 to go.
The Wild iced the game with under two to go scoring an empty netter amid a massive flurry by Colorado. Jason Pominville tallied from center ice.
Marco Scandella scored another empty netter to make it 5-2 with :55 left in the game.
The Wild win 5-2, and will play a decisive Game 7 in Colorado Wednesday night.
END PERIOD TWO - Colorado 2, Minnesota 2
Scoring: COL - Holden (2)
Shots: COL - 14 (20 total); MIN - 6 (15)
Power Play: COL - 1/1 (1/3); MIN - 0/0 (1/3)
Both teams had terrific chances in the first few minutes of the second.
The Wild had their shot on a 3-on-1 rush, but it was foiled when Jason Pominville couldn't handle a pass sent into his skates on the rush.
Back the other way, Darcy Kuemper closed the door on a pair of Avalanche shots from close-range during a flurry in front of his net.
Wild forward Matt Moulson was sent off for a misguided slash at mid-ice directly in front of a referee, and Colorado cashed in. Ryan O'Reilly centered the puck from behind and left Kuemper's net to Nick Holden - who posted up in front to bang it home tying the game 2-2 with 15:13 left in the second.
Colorado ramped up the intensity in the middle of the period. A Kyle Brodziak chance from just off Semyon Varlamov's left post was the Wild's only true chance for a long stretch.
Just past the midpoint, a strong forecheck from Charlie Coyle turned the puck over from the Avalanche defense. Mikko Koivu's centering pass back into the crease to Coyle narrowly missed.
Brodziak had another chance immediately after, but his shot taken while diving through the air went just wide. The flurry with 9 to go in the period was the Wild's first sustained pressure of the period. It energized the home crowd which had leveled out a bit to that point.
The teams exchanged mildly threatening chances over the next several minutes, with neither side taking over the momentum.
With Moulson (high stick) and Holden (interference) both off for coincidental minors, Zach Parise (tripping) and Andre Benoit (embellishment) also took coincidental minors with 2:34 to go in the period.
Neither team broke through on the 4-on-4, and the period ended 2-2.
END PERIOD ONE - Colorado 1, Minnesota 2
Scoring: MIN - Parise (2); MIN - Granlund (2); COL - Statsny (4)
Shots: COL - 6; MIN - 9
Power Play: COL - 0/2; MIN - 1/3
Just as they did on the two previous home games in the series, the Wild came out on fire straight from the drop of the puck.
With Nathan MacKinnon off for a penalty in the first 30-seconds of the game - Mikael Granlund picked off a would-be Colorado clearing pass keeping the pressure on. Mikko Koivu dug the puck out of the corner and threw a backhand pass toward the crease. Zach Parise couldn't handle it, but it trickled to Ryan Suter, who crashed from the point. Suter quickly unloaded a shot that bounced off Parise's leg and past Semyon Varlamov for a 1-0 Wild lead just 49 seconds into the game.
Colorado earned their first power play shortly after with Dany Heatley sent off. Late in the power play, Darcy Kuemper flashed a quick glove hand to snag a Jamie McGinn shot bound for the top right corner, denying the only true threat in the power play.
Just before the midpoint of the period, the Wild rushed upice with Parise carrying the puck. As he entered the zone, he fed it to Jason Pominville just inside the left point. Pominville spotted Mikael Granlund on the opposite wing and threaded a pass parallel to the blue line. Granlund took his time to wind up for a pinpoint wrist shot that whistled through Varlamov's legs for a 2-0 Wild lead 9:35 into the game.
The teams swapped power plays over the next seven minutes.
The Wild killed off a tripping call on Koivu, and had a terrific chance as he sprung from the box all alone. However, Koivu was unable to connect on a pass to a streaking linemate on the right wing.
Moments after, Paul Statsny went to the box for a slash - which was followed by a delay of game call on Andre Benoit halfway through the initial power play.
Colorado killed the five-on-three, and just as Statsny left the box a Suter fanned shot trickled to Ryan O'Reilly. O'Reilly immediately whipped the puck up-ice to Statsny in full stride. Bearing down all alone, Statsny beat Kuemper shorthanded to cut it to 2-1 with 3:01 left in the period.
The Wild had a couple flurries in the final minute, but the period ended with a 2-1 score.
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