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Preview: Avalanche (52-22) at Wild (43-27)
BT Movements  ·  Line Movements
Date: April 24, 2014 9:30 PM EDT

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Without Mikael Granlund's overtime goal, the Minnesota Wild would be in major trouble in their first-round series against Colorado.

After a rough rookie year for the young center from Finland, though, the Wild weren't sure they could count on Granlund this season for such important production.

Coach Mike Yeo said, in a moment of candor, he didn't expect Granlund's breakthrough to come so quickly this season.

But his slick work with the stick deep in the Avalanche zone and the dramatic diving shot that followed in Game 3 were vivid examples of why Granlund was drafted ninth overall by the Wild in 2010 and considered part of their anticipated core for the next decade.


'From where he was last year to where he is now, it's incredible the leaps that he's taken,' teammate and now-linemate Zach Parise said.

'For me, sitting next to him and watching him evolve, get more comfortable in the room and get more comfortable on the ice and see him get rewarded like that, it's awesome.'

Concussion issues limited Granlund to 63 games, including the last six of the regular season, but he slid right back into the lineup for the playoffs and gave the Wild new life with his winner on Monday.

Game 4 is set for Thursday, with the Avalanche ahead 2-1 in the series.

The Wild controlled the pace and flow of all three periods, outshooting the Avalanche 44-20, but they precariously returned to the ice for overtime in a scoreless game.

Yeo said he thought the team, for the first time all night, looked tight. So Granlund's goal could hardly have come at a better time.

'When you win the battle against a team, you need to go to the net and a lot of times you have a lot of room there,' the soft-spoken 22-year-old said.

That's precisely what happened. After fending off a check along the boards by Jan Hejda, Granlund pivoted to find an opening and swooped in toward the crease. Eluding the outstretched hand of Erik Johnson, Granlund juggled the puck from his backhand to the forehand and again to the backhand as he fell forward and took a diving, final swing.

Finally, the Wild got one past goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Game over.

In the past 75 years, only four other NHL players have made their first career playoff goal the only score in an overtime game. Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly in 2010 was the most recent one to do that.

'It's a big goal, but it's more than that,' fellow Finn center Mikko Koivu said. 'I think for an individual player, you can create a lot of confidence with that for the games in the future as well.'

The abbreviated season last year following the lockout sure didn't help Granlund, who was also dealing with the transition from the wide-open European style to the smaller ice sheet.

The player who attracts paparazzi in his home country and had an eye-popping, lacrosse-style, lifted-puck goal from the 2011 world championships printed on a postage stamp had only two goals and six assists in 27 games and was sent to the AHL for more development.

He had eight goals and 33 assists this season. Then came the overtime on Monday.

'We didn't get beat by a bad goal. We got beat by an outstanding play,' Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. 'He made a terrific play in the corner, even better to the front of the net. I mean, we had two guys in front of the net. He went through these guys. He deserves credit.'

Darcy Kuemper's 22-save shutout in his playoff debut was another reason the Wild were able to climb back into contention. They'll all face an Avalanche team certain to be fired up, particularly in light of losing defenseman Tyson Barrie to a knee-on-knee hit by Wild agitator Matt Cooke.

While the Wild began preparing to play without Cooke, who was suspended seven games, the Avalanche regrouped at practice on Wednesday. Johnson called Cooke's pattern of rough play 'disgusting' and questioned whether he should remain in the league.

'We're not looking to do anything to the extent he did. We're just out there to finish our checks hard and play hard. As far as retribution? No,' Johnson said.

Rookie Nathan MacKinnon and his star-studded line, meanwhile, looked to bounce back from a quiet game.

'It wasn't them that shut us down. I think we shut ourselves down. They played hard and focused on our line, I guess, but it was more what we weren't doing than what they were doing.'


Dave Campbell on Twitter:

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

Wild at Avalanche
Thu, Apr 17 Final 4 to 5
 Boxscores    Recaps
Wild at Avalanche
Sat, Apr 19 Final 2 to 4
 Boxscores    Recaps
Avalanche at Wild
Mon, Apr 21 Final 0 to 1
 Boxscores    Recaps
Avalanche at Wild
Thu, Apr 24 Final 1 to 2
 Boxscores    Recaps
Wild at Avalanche
Sat, Apr 26 Final 3 to 4
 Boxscores    Recaps
Avalanche at Wild
Mon, Apr 28 Final 2 to 5
 Boxscores    Recaps
Wild at Avalanche
Wed, Apr 30 Final 5 to 4
 Boxscores    Recaps

 Team  ML   PUC   O/U 
 COL  +110      5 
 MIN  -130      

 Team  ML   PUC   O/U 
 COL  +110      5 
 MIN  -130      

 Team  ML   PUC   O/U 
 COL  54%   22%   72% 
 MIN  46%   78%   28% 

 Apr 21, 2014  Score  ATS Results 
 COL 0 Under: 1 
 MIN 1 Cover: 281 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps
 Apr 19, 2014  Score  ATS Results 
 MIN 2 Over: 6 
 COL 4 Cover: 252 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps
 Apr 17, 2014  Score  ATS Results 
 MIN 4 Over: 9 
 COL 5 Cover: 251 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps
 Jan 30, 2014  Score  ATS Results 
 MIN 4 Over: 9 
 COL 5 Cover: 231 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps
 Jan 11, 2014  Score  ATS Results 
 COL 4 Over: 6 
 MIN 2 Cover: 288 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps
 Dec 14, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 MIN 2 Under: 3 
 COL 1 Cover: 259 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps
 Nov 30, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 MIN 2 Push: 5 
 COL 3 Cover: 261 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps
 Nov 29, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 COL 3 Under: 4 
 MIN 1 Cover: 298 
 Tools:   Boxscores    Recaps

 Thursday, Apr 24
    Bruins at Red Wings
8:05 PM EDT
    Avalanche at Wild
9:35 PM EDT
    Sharks at Kings
10:35 PM EDT
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