Sudden death, next goal wins. Every player out on the ice is dreaming of being the hero during this exact moment. You can feel the tension each time a player carries the puck into the offensive zone, the next goal will bring elation or evisceration. This roller coaster of emotions awaits all fans during playoff overtime hockey, and there is nothing better.
When Paul Stastny scored with almost 14 seconds left to go in the third period to tie the game at four, it proved that the Avalanche were more than just regular-season darlings. The Avs are a powerhouse, and though game one taught us many things, here are my the top three.
3. Team Speed – This young team can absolutely fly, and that’s the way the Avs are going to beat teams. To win, the Avs will have to outskate its opponents and use the mile high altitude as the advantage that it is. The longer the game went along, the stronger the Avalanche became, because as the the Minnesota Wild were getting tired, the Avs were just getting warmed up. When Semyon Varlamov was pulled with just over three minutes to go, the Avalanche cranked up the pressure and tightened the screws. Spending the next three minutes in attack mode with nothing holding the players back, you could see which way the momentum was tilted, and a game-tying goal was inevitable.
2. Physical Play – After using speed to its advantage the Avalanche continued to hit Minnesota’s players hard, and often. The Avs outhit Minnesota 41-28 and being exhausted then escorted into the boards repeatedly, led to mistakes in the form of turnovers, icing the puck and frustration.
1. Resiliency – The biggest lesson learned from Thursday’s game was that this Avs team does not give up, there was no panic, even when down two goals with just the third period to play. When Jamie McGinn scored to draw the Avalanche to a very manageable one-goal deficit, the Avs continued to apply pressure. The Avalanche cycled the puck until Nathan MacKinnon found Paul Stastny at the bottom of the circle, where Stastny scored his second goal of the game and MacKinnon notched his third assist of the night.