The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild put forth a spectacular show tonight. In a game that featured big controversies, shows of perseverance, major injuries, and stunning clutch goals, the Wild managed to eliminate the Avalanche with a 5-4 victory in overtime.
There were so many players worthy of mention in this game, but there’s no question that 21-year-old Wild forward Nino Niederreiter was the hero tonight. He had two goals and an assist, including the game-winning goal in overtime. That’s quite an accomplishment for a player that wasn’t able to establish himself with the team that originally drafted him, the New York Islanders, and was given a chance at a fresh start this season with Minnesota.
Speaking of redemption, 33-year-old forward Dany Heatley has seen his production steeply decline in recent years, to the point where he started this series in the press box. He came up big tonight with a goal and two assists.
Mikko Koivu also found the back of the net for the first time in this series while Charlie Coyle inspired the Wild by returning to the game after being struck in the face by the puck.
The news wasn’t all good for Minnesota though. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has previously dealt with concussion problems, was hit in the head midway through the third period and left the contest. Ilya Bryzgalov replaced him and, after losing the first two games of this series, was credited as the Game 7 winner.
This has to be a bittersweet end for the Avalanche. There’s no question that they wanted to do better, especially after coming so close to winning the series, but they also exceeded most people’s preseason expectations for them. Rookie Nathan MacKinnon stepped up in the playoffs to get Avalanche fans excited about their future, even if he finished Game 7 with no points and a minus-three rating.
For the Wild, it will only get harder from here as their next opponent is the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.