Avalanche 3, Wild 2

DENVER (AP)—Brian Willsie is wild about Minnesota and, in particular, goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

Willsie scored his first goal of the season and first career playoff goal, and Patrick Roy made 24 saves as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 Saturday to square their first-round series 1-1.

The best-of-seven series shifts to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Wednesday.

Of Willsie’s eight career goals, five have come off Roloson.

“I don’t really know why,” Willsie said. “I’ve been fortunate against him.”

Willsie scored at 5:49 of the third after Dan Hinote won a faceoff in the right circle. Hinote skated toward the goal, took Rob Blake’s pass and made a blind pass back to Willsie in the slot.

Willsie’s goal gave Colorado a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead, but Andrew Brunette made it close on a power-play goal with 35.6 seconds left.

Minutes in, Willsie had a rare scoring chance but was stopped on a breakaway.

“I was kind of disappointed on the breakaway,” Willsie said. “He made a great save. I was hoping to get another chance and lucky that I did.

“I wanted to find the puck coming through and get it away as quick as I could. There was a hole on the blocker side.”

Willsie played in only 12 games for the Avalanche this season, getting one assist. Promoted to Colorado five times this season from Hershey, he spent so much time in the minor leagues that he led the Bears in goals, points, shots and game-winning goals.

Now he has an NHL playoff game-winner.

“It was exciting to get the first playoff goal out of the way, and it was even more exciting that it was the game-winner, too,” said Willsie.

Roloson had 25 saves for the Wild, who won the opener 4-2.

“We got a split and that’s what you try to do on the road in the playoffs,” Roloson said. “Now we are going back to our building, and hopefully we can do well there.”

Wild center Wes Walz said the series switch to Minnesota “is going to be exciting for our fans. They’ve waited a long time for a playoff game.”

Minnesota was called for nine penalties.

“It’s kind of tough when you’re playing against a top team and you’ve got to give penalties all the time,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. “In general, I’m happy with the way we played. Rolly played really well. I can’t ask better.”

Minnesota scored on 2 of 3 power-play opportunities in the opener but were 1-for-5 Saturday.

“Today we did a much better job of killing penalties,” Avalanche coach Tony Granato said.

Milan Hejduk had a goal and an assist for Colorado, and Rob Blake had two assists. Darby Hendrickson had two assists for the Wild.

The Avalanche, facing a team that plays a smothering defense once it gets the lead, was hoping for an early advantage, and got it. Minnesota is 21-0-1 when leading after one period this season and 31-0-1 when ahead after two.

Goals by Hejduk and Greg de Vries sparked Colorado to a 2-1 lead in the first period, during which it outshot the Wild 13-4.

Hejduk scored a power-play goal on a 4-on-3 situation at 4:22. Roloson stopped Blake’s shot from the point, and Derek Morris tipped the rebound to Hejduk, who scored into an open net.

Minnesota, a 3-year-old team playing its first playoff series, scored on its first shot at 8:09. Colorado’s Martin Skoula turned the puck over along the left boards, and Walz beat Roy on a wrister from the left circle.

The Avalanche went ahead on a 4-on-4 at 14:41 when de Vries took a pass from Peter Forsberg in the slot.

There was no scoring in an energetic second period. Roy had two superb glove saves, one on Antti Laaksonen’s breakaway on a short-handed attempt, the other on Jeremy Stevenson’s redirection of Andrei Zyuzin’s long shot.

Earlier in the period, Roy stopped four shots on a Wild power play.

Minnesota’s Richard Park hit the far post on a breakaway early in the third.

After Colorado’s Derek Morris went off for cross-checking at 18:38, Minnesota got another scoring chance. Brunette tipped in a rebound of SergeiZholtok’s shot just seconds after Roloson left the ice.


Roloson got the start over Manny Fernandez after making 39 saves in the opener. … Including losses in the final two games of the conference finals to Detroit last year, Colorado had dropped three consecutive playoff games by a combined score of 13-2. … Colorado forward Mike Keane, scratched from the opener because of stiffness and spasms in his back, played Game 2. … Coloradois 6-1 in the second game of a playoff series after losing the opener.

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