Before leaving for Colorado, the Minnesota Wild spoke about the necessity of not getting caught in a back-and-forth game with the speedy, youthful Avalanche.
Colorado’s transition game, which helped the Avalanche finish fourth in the NHL in scoring this season, was on display in Game 2 and Minnesota returns home down 2-0 and hoping to turn the series with two games at home.
The youth and speed that concerned the Wild before the series gave Colorado a 4-2 victory on Saturday night in Denver, with 21-year-old Gabriel Landeskog scoring two goals and 18-year-old phenom Nathan MacKinnon adding a goal and three assists.
"We’ve been able to shut down really good players all year long," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "We’re backing up a little bit too much, as far as I’m concerned right now. I think we’re allowing them to build speed, so we’ve got to do a better job with that."
The first three goals for the Avalanche on Saturday were scored in transition on Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who finished with 11 saves. Darcy Kuemper replaced Byrzgalov and stopped all 14 shots he faced, but Colorado added an empty-net goal by Paul Stastny after Marco Scandella scored a late short-handed goal for Minnesota.
MacKinnon has taken the league by storm in his first season after being the top overall pick in the NHL Draft last summer. Perhaps MacKinnon’s best asset is his speed and he has continually shown his quick skating in the series.
MacKinnon got behind the Wild’s defense for the first goal. Later, he sped into the Minnesota zone and dropped a pass for Landeskog, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft. For Landeskog’s second goal, MacKinnon went around defenseman Jared Spurgeon before feeding Stastny, who found Landeskog in transition.
"We’re giving time and space, whereas we want to make sure that we want to be taking it away," Yeo said of defending Colorado. "Part of it is also angles. I thought that we got caught flat-footed and that’s something we usually do a better job of."
Yeo spoke about returning home and having the chance to match lines against the Avalanche’s top scoring, where Minnesota gets the benefit of the last change.
Landeskog, Stastny and MacKinnon accounted for all four goals on Saturday and seven goals in the first two games. MacKinnon has one goal and six assists in the series. Stastny has three goals and three assists.
Minnesota received its own transition goal from one of its own young players. Charlie Coyle scored his second goal of the series, going hard to the net on a feed from Mikko Koivu.
"It’s definitely a team effort," Coyle said of scoring against Varlamov, a Vezina Trophy front-runner. "We got to throw more pucks to the net and I think we need more bodies there, too, take away his eyes. It’s tough on goalies when you do that, so I think we just got to stay simple and throw pucks at the net and see what happens."
The Wild host Game 3 on Monday at 6 p.m.
"We just got to forget about them," Coyle said of the first two games. "We didn’t play too bad, but they still came out with two wins. They’re a good team over there and I think right now we just got to focus on Game 3 and just think about that only."