There was just too much deja vu for the Minnesota Wild in Colorado on Saturday night.
Minnesota will return home facing an elimination game at Xcel Energy Center on Monday night for Game 6 after the Colorado Avalanche scored a goal with 1 minute, 14 seconds left in regulation after pulling their goalie and added an overtime winner by teenager Nathan MacKinnon 3:27 into overtime.
The Wild, who controlled the two games in Minnesota last week, also had a late lead in Game 1 in Denver when Colorado scored with 14 seconds left and won in overtime, with MacKinnon proving to be a force.
Minnesota felt good going back to Denver after playing well at home and feeling it had outplayed the Avalanche in Game 1 as well. But like Game 1, the Wild are left empty-handed.
"I don’t want to say luck, but we’re due for some stuff here to go our way a little bit," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said. "I’m not going to sit here and dwell on what happened in the game or what-could-have-beens. To me, this is playoff hockey. You get highs and you get lows and it’s how you deal with it.
"So for me, listen, we got an opportunity to go home in front of our crowd and win a hockey game to push to a Game 7. For a lot of guys in our room, we have a lot of guys that have never played in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs and there’s not many things that are better than that."
The Wild looked poised to take a road game for the first time in this series and just the third time in the entire Western Conference playoffs after Zach Parise scored his first goal of the playoffs early in the third period and Kyle Brodziak, scratched for Game 3, scored his second goal of the series about two minutes later.
"I think that it was big for us to come out and initiate," Brodziak said. "I don’t think we really did that for the first two periods. I think we were playing a little more hesitant than we had the previous couple games. To come out in the third like that and to really initiate our play, and we saw the results from it. We’ve got to find a way to bottle that up and put it in a full game for Game 6."
But pulling goaltender Semyon Varlamov paid off for Colorado coach Patrick Roy in Game 1 and did again after the Wild couldn’t chase down a loose puck in the offensive zone with an empty net.
The Avalanche turned the momentum by heading straight up the ice and scoring in transition as they’ve done in each of the three games in Colorado. Replays showed the Avalanche were offsides on the game-tying goal, but officials never called the infraction and Paul Stastny found P.A. Parenteau in the slot.
"It is what it is," Yeo said. "To sit here and dwell on it, I don’t think, is going to do us any good. Obviously frustrating, obviously disappointing, but bottom line is it’s not going to do us any good."
The Wild tried not to get caught up in the officiating issues.
"I think it’s one of the toughest things to do, and I think it’s one of the more important things to do," Brodziak said. "You definitely can’t let it bother you. If you’re letting it bother you, you’re focus isn’t on the right things. Yeah, we just got to keep playing hard. Like I say, if we focus on the right things then at the end of the day things like that tend to even out."
Game 6 in Minnesota is set for Monday at 8 p.m. and the Wild will look to even the series again, just like they did in Games 3 and 4 in dominating the Avalanche and outshooting Colorado 78-34 in a pair of one-goal wins at home.
"We know what’s ahead of us here," Yeo said. "We knew coming in that we’re playing a team that won the division, a team that is an extremely skilled group and never once did we think things were going to be easy. So, obviously the task at hand now is pretty simple, and play the same way we did at home."