After such a hard-fought series, the Minnesota Wild were able to take down the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 in overtime of Game 7 to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and win their first playoff series since 2003.
It was arguably the most entertaining series of the first round of the NHL playoffs, with five of the seven games being decided by a single goal with four going to overtime. With how intense the entire series was, Game 7 was the perfect ending.
Avalanche center Matt Duchene was excited to be back playing at home for the first time since March 29 due to a knee injury, according to Rick Sadowski of NHL.com, saying:
It's going to be awesome. It was so hard for me to watch the intros for the games here and not be able to skate with the boys, so it's really going to be exciting to be a part of it tonight. It'll be fun to be out there in front of the home crowd. They've been unbelievable for us in the series.
The Avalanche didn't get a ton of chances during power-play opportunities in the first six games of the series, going just 2-of-22. But they got on the board early thanks to a Nick Holden power-play goal near the front of the net.
It didn't take long for the Wild to answer back with a goal of their own, as both teams were dialed in during the first period. Wild captain Mikko Koivu ripped an impressive one-timer to even the game at 1-1 about five minutes later.
As Chad Graff of the Pioneer Press points out, it was Koivu's first goal of the series.
Goal. Mikko Koivu and the Wild answer right back. Koivu's first playoff goal in a long time. Tied 1-1 eight minutes in.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) May 1, 2014
Jamie McGinn was able to fire the home crowd back up, however, as the Avalanche wing got his second point of the game with a big goal to give the Avs a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. The Avalanche had the momentum, but with how quickly both teams were scoring in the first period, it wasn't bound to last.
Minnesota's Dany Heatley answered in the second period to tie things at 2-2. The former two-time 50-goal scorer hasn't been the same player since joining the Wild back in 2011, as he scored just 12 goals this season. But Heatley was apparently due for one during this series, and his goal was the reason the game was tied heading into the second intermission.
Chief from Barstool Sports seemed as surprised as anyone that Heatley was able to score his first goal since the end of February.
Every once in a while Danny Heatley reminds everyone that he is still getting them checks— Chief (@BarstoolChief) May 1, 2014
With how well Paul Stastny had been playing to start the series for the Avalanche, he was expected to step up at some point in Game 7, and he finally did that in the third period, scoring his fifth goal and recording his 10th point of the playoffs.
Matt Larkin of The Hockey News suggests that since Stastny is set to be a free agent after this season, every goal he scores is likely driving his market value up even more.
With every clutch goal Paul Stastny scores, is he cementing his place in Colorado's future or increasing his UFA payday?— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) May 1, 2014
Getting a goal from Stastny was nice, but it was just one of a number of goals in the final period.
But once again, the Wild answered back with a goal of their own thanks to the 21-year-old Nino Niederreiter, who scored his first career playoff goal at the perfect moment to help his team out.
The only problem for the Wild was that the Avalanche would just keep coming back with more offensive attacks. Erik Johnson scored his first goal of the series to put them back up at 4-3. As the team's official Twitter account pointed out, Johnson is actually from Minnesota, and scored a critical goal against the team from his home state.
The Wild continued doing what they do best and found yet another way to tie the game up, as Jared Spurgeon came up with the equalizer, forcing a winner-take-all playoff game to sudden-death overtime, adding even more drama to such a crazy series.
TIED UP IN GAME 7! Minnesota's Jared Spurgeon with the equalizer! Avalanche and Wild are tied at four with less than 2 minutes to play!— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 1, 2014
Wow. Tied hockey game, 2 minutes left in the 3rd. RT @mnwild: SPURGEON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— NHL (@NHL) May 1, 2014
Spurgeon's mitts: NSFW— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 1, 2014
After so much fighting to get back into the game every time the Avalanche scored, the Wild were finally able to win it in overtime after Niederreiter came up with his second goal of the game, and just like that, the Wild were able to advance to the second round.
Welcome to Wild history, Nino Niederreiter.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) May 1, 2014
Big defensive play in OT by Ryan Suter at one end and Niederreiter the other way to score the winner for the Wild. What a game!— Tony Marinaro (@TonyMarinaro) May 1, 2014
MINNESOTA WINS! Nino Niederreiter with the winner in overtime! Wild face the defending champ Blackhawks in 2nd Round! pic.twitter.com/jwtqRR5boz— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 1, 2014
After the game, Wild head coach Mike Yeo praised the Avalanche for playing so well during the season and during their series, via Brandon Krisztal of The Press Box.
Mike Yeo "I definitely want to congratulate Colorado, they had a great year and this was a great series." #avswild— Brandon Krisztal (@BKDenverSports) May 1, 2014
"To score a Game 7 overtime winner, it's the biggest goal you can score," Niederreiter said, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. "I'm very happy. I wasn't quite sure it went in, though."
After such an incredibly tough series, the Wild will now have to prepare to take on the now-healthy Chicago Blackhawks, who were able to win four straight games against the St. Louis Blues after falling behind 2-0 in the series.
It will be a very tough task for the Wild, as they'll be coming in quite exhausted and have to try to get past the defending Stanley Cup champions. Minnesota won the regular-season series against the Blackhawks, going 3-1-1 in five games against its division rival.
Regardless of what happens to the Wild in the next round, they played a terrific series to beat a tough Avalanche team, and that made for one Wild final game.