The Colorado Avalanche are set to face off with the Minnesota Wild in the NHL playoffs on Thursday. The Avs make their first appearance in the playoffs since the 2009-10 season.
Head coach Patrick Roy has surprised everyone by leading his team to 112 points and the Central Division title. The Avs are the biggest shocking team in the NHL.
As the playoffs start, Roy should have some bad memories of playing the Wild. Minnesota eliminated Colorado in the 2003 playoffs in the first round in an upset that ended up being the Hall-of-Fame goalie’s final game.
The Avs were coming in as a No. 3 seed and had won the Northwest Division with 105 points. The Wild had netted 95 points that season and finished with the sixth seed. Colorado was a heavy favorite with all their the playoff experience and had just won the the Stanley Cup two seasons before.
But that was not the case.
The Wild came into Pepsi Center and shocked the high-powered Avs. Roy gave up four goals on 27 shots which included two on the power play. Minnesota’s Andrew Brunette made his name known early in the series as he had a goal and an assist. The Avs were officially put on notice that this series was not going to easy.
This was also Tony Granato‘s first playoff game as the team’s head coach. Granato replaced Bob Hartley during the season which was not a popular move in the Denver media.
The Avs netted a much-needed victory to even the series at one but it was far from easy. Colorado pulled off a 3-2 win at home with goals coming from Milan Hejduk, Greg de Vires and Brian Willsie. The game was only 2-1 going into the third period before Willsie scored his goal about six minutes into the final period. The series was headed to Minnesota all tied up.
Colorado plays its best game of the series as the Avs take a 2-1 series lead. Roy comes up with 18 saves in a shutout win. The Avs’ big-time stars came up with goals as Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Alex Tanguay put pucks in the back of the net. Colorado looked to be on track after the two tough games in Denver.
Another game where the Avs looked dominate and in position to take over the series. Sakic scored two more goals and Roy gave up one goal on 25 shots. Colorado looked to have an commanding 3-1 series lead.
Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire made a goal switch early in the game after Sakic scored his two goal in the first eight minutes of the game. Dwayne Roloson, who was stellar early in the season, was pulled for Manny Fernandez. Fernandez played the rest of the series.
The Wild came out and blitzed the Avs and went up 3-0 going into the third period. The Avs were looking to close out the series at home but that was not the case. Colorado scored two late goals to make the game interesting but it was never really close.
In his first start, Fernandez was great and came up with 26 saves. In a shocking moment, Roy looked shaky early on as he gave up two goals in the first four minutes.
The Avs still had a 3-2 series lead heading into the game at the Xcel Energy Center. The game was scoreless through the first two periods. It was tense and tightly contested through out.
The Wild’s Richard Park scored a goal early in the third period and Marian Gaborik netted another goal to give Minnesota a two-goal lead. The Avs made a comeback with goals from Sakic and de Vires to send the game to overtime.
Park would become the hero and scored the winner to force Game 7 in Denver.
The Avs were expected to have this series finished up long before it got to this point but here they were in a do or die situation. Another tense game that was close all the way through.
After a scoreless first period, Forsberg netted a goal but it was quickly answered by the Wild. Sakic scored with about seven minutes left in the game but again the Wild answered with a score by Gaborik. The game headed to overtime.
The game was over fast. Brunette, who was the star of the Game 1 win, scored the final goal on Roy as Minnesota took the series less than four minutes in the extra period. The Avs were shocked and upset after going up 3-1 and Roy decided to call it career.
The Wild would move on all the way to the conference finals before losing to Anaheim. The Avs made it to the playoffs the next two seasons but have never been close to sniffing the Stanley Cup again.
Roy and the Avs will be looking for a better result this time around. The Avs actually beat the Wild in the 2008 playoffs but this series could have a more personal feel. Roy would love to beat the team ended his career.
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