As the Colorado Avalanche were practicing in preparation for Game 5 of their first round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild, they knew there was no room for another sluggish performance. The series was tied at two games apiece, and the winner of game 5 at Pepsi Center would take a 3-2 series lead back to Minnesota for Game 6. If the Avalanche were to lose Game 5, they would be in total freefall heading back to the house of horors that Xcel Energy Center proved to be in games 3 and 4. Colorado had to stop the bleeding, and they did so in a way that looked disconcertingly familiar.
Remember Game 1, when the Avalanche were trailing by a goal when they scored to tie the game with 13.4 seconds left? Remember how Colorado carried that momentum into overtime and won just a few minutes into the extra frame? It was practically a miracle. Surely you can't get two miracles in the same series, right? Enter Game 5.
The Avalanche were much more aggressive forechecking in this game than they had been in Minnesota. They made adjustments and rediscovered their focus and determination. But still, they found themselves trailing by a goal in the waning minutes of the third period. Captain Gabriel Landeskog took a questionable penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct with about five minutes left, and it appeared that the game, along with the series, had slipped away. The clock continued to wind down, and head coach Patrick Roy was forced to pull goaltender Semyon Varlamov from the net, as has been necessary far too often lately.
Minnesota nearly scored an empty net goal, but Colorado defenseman Andre Benoit got back in time to disrupt the play. Then, with under a minute and a half remaining in regulation, Nathan MacKinnon carried the puck into the offensive zone while Paul Stastny just barely stayed close enough to the blue line to be called onside in real time, although the replay showed Stastny's left foot coming off the ice early, even though it was still outside the line. MacKinnon then passed to Stastny who took a shot that rebounded to the middle of the ice where P.A. Parenteau buried the equalizer to send the game into overtime. In the sudden death period, riding the emotional momentum of the heroic game tying goal, MacKinnon scored the game winner with a lightning fast flick of his wrists after his teammates battled to hold the puck in the offensive zone and found MacKinnon in front of the net.
Game 5 was like Game 1 in many ways. The following occurred in both contests: Colorado scored first. Minnesota led by a goal as time was running out. Colorado pulled their goaltender and miraculously found a way to score when they absolutely had to. The Avalanche proceeded to win early in overtime sending the Pepsi Center crowd into a frenzy. And Nathan MacKinnon had a 3+ point performance.
This magical ride of a season was on the verge of ending in disaster. Before the game, coach Roy laid out the situation in no uncertain terms. During his press conference, he used words that cannot be repeated here to show that he and his team knew what had to be done. And they delivered. Avalanche fans are having years shaved off of their lifespans with the way the games have gone so far in this series, but for all the drama, Colorado now leads the series 3-2, and is one win away from advancing to the second round for the first time in six years.Tags: Colorado, Colorado Avalanche, Gabriel Landeskog, Hockey, Nathan MacKinnon, NHL, P.A. Parenteau, Patrick Roy, Paul Stastny, Semyon Varlamov