It should’ve been a blowout. But it wasn’t, at least not on the scoreboard. Nonetheless, the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche are heading back to Denver in what is now a best-of-three series.
The Wild, which trailed this series 2-0 as it transitioned back to Minnesota, thoroughly outplayed the Avalanche on Thursday in front of a record crowd of 19,396 fans, but came away with a 2-1 result on the score board when it was over. The play of Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov was the only reason this game was as close as it was.
He made 30 saves in a losing cause. He was beaten early on the first period on a perfect slap shot under the cross bar from Jared Spurgeon and again by Charlie Coyle in the second period.
Coyle was the benefactor of a lucky home bounce, as the puck hit off the glass behind the Colorado net and came right out to the Minnesota center, who whacked it past Varlamov.
The Avalanche couldn’t generate much of anything. Ryan O’Reilly scored the lone goal for Colorado, ending Darcy Kuemper’s shutout streak in this series at 124:35, as per Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
As a team, the Avalanche was held to 12 shots on goal. In the entire game. They were in the single digits late into the third period, when head coach Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov for the extra attacker with about 2:35 remaining in regulation and the Avalanche got a late power play.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.
EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.
Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.
Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.