ST. PAUL (AP)—Heading into this year’s postseason, the Colorado Avalanche had played four consecutive Game 7s.
There’s a good chance that streak will end this week if the Avs play the way they did Monday night.
Holding a 2-1 edge over Minnesota and coming off a dominating 3-0 win, the Avs have the chance to put their rookie playoff opponents deeper in the hole Wednesday night in Game 4 at what’s sure to be another roaring Xcel Energy Center.
But aside from the expected 19,000-plus fans, the two-time Stanley Cup champions will hold almost every other advantage.
It took them three games, but the Avs finally did what everyone expected: overwhelm the young, inexperienced Wild. Minnesota didn’t play poorly in Game 3 and had several good scoring opportunities. Goaltender Dwayne Roloson, except for being caught out of the net on Colorado’s first goal, kept his team in the game.
But the Wild were overmatched by Colorado’s top line of Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk and Peter Forsberg. The Avs’ aggressive penalty killing shut down the Wild on six power plays, and Patrick Roy showed why he’s one of the most successful NHL goalies ever by getting his 23rd career playoff shutout.
Roy now has a league-leading 150 playoff wins.
“I just hope it’ll be a 151 tomorrow, to be honest with you,” Roy said after Tuesday’s practice.
A win Wednesday night would give the Avs a chance to wrap up the series Saturday night in Denver. The last time Colorado avoiding playing all seven games of a playoff series was in 2001, when the Avs beat St. Louis in five games in the Western Conference finals.
“You want to be able to put teams away when you can. Tomorrow’s a big, big game for us,” defenseman Rob Blake said.
Despite the many edges the Avs hold in, they are savvy enough to know they can’t take their playoff experience and superior talent for granted.
“Today’s a new day and I’m sure they’re feeling the same way,” center Joe Sakic said. “We know they’re going to come out harder, they’re going to be a desperate team.”
A day after Colorado deflated the party-like atmosphere of the state’s first postseason home game in 11 years, coach Jacques Lemaire said he thought his players fared well defensively.
“The thing is we didn’t score, we’ve got to be sharper with the puck around the net, make the right play, get the right shot or sometimes just get the puck in front,” Lemaire said. “It’s the right decision there that makes you a team that can score.”
The Wild didn’t necessarily sound like a defeated team after Monday night’s emotional loss, but they didn’t sound like a team that believed it could win the series. Lemaire hinted he knew his young team was in over its head against the Avs, who’ve won nine straight division titles.
“We’re looking at trying to play as well as we can and trying to get a break,” Lemaire said. “We want to make it as close as possible. If we can get some breaks and steal a win, we’ll go from there.”
At the very least, the Wild are hoping to bring the series back to St. Paul for Game 6. But that will depend on the them showing the same offensive tenacity they displayed in their surprising Game 1 victory in Denver.
“We really have to concentrate on doing the little things around the net, in front of the net,” left wing Andrew Brunette said. “We only had 18 shots, that’s not enough.”
Colorado did an outstanding job of shutting down Minnesota’s offensive threats in Game 3. The most shots taken by a Minnesota player was three by defenseman Andrei Zyuzin.
Despite the enormity of the task, the Wild did their best Tuesday to sound confident.
“You always think you can win, that’s how you should look at it,” Lemaire said. “But we realize the team we’re playing against. Any mistake you make, they can put it in the net.”
Keeping with tradition, Lemaire declined to offer any clues who will start in goal, e Roloson or Manny Fernandez.