Avalanche Take 3-2 Series Lead

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press
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Jose Theodore and the Colorado Avalanche just sat back and waited. Then Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny pushed the Minnesota Wild to the edge of elimination.

Wojtek and Stastny scored 79 seconds apart early in the third period to give Theodore and the patient Avs a 3-2 victory on Thursday and a 3-2 series lead, after weathering a relentless effort by the Wild.

Minnesota outshot Colorado 32-14 over the first two periods. But following an interference penalty by Sean Hill, with 5 seconds left on the power play, Wolski sent the puck through goalie Niklas Backstrom's pads for a 2-1 lead with 14:54 remaining.

Then came the knockout blow by Stastny, the regular-season goals leader for the Avalanche who was searching for his first score of this series. He took a smooth pass by Milan Hejduk and made a nifty pivot to lift a back-hander over Backstrom.

Game 6 is in Denver on Saturday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, more than 80 percent (158 of 196) of the Game 5 winners of previously tied playoff series have advanced to the next round in NHL history.

Theodore made 38 saves. He gave up a too-late slap shot goal by Brian Rolston with 2.5 seconds left and a first-period power-play goal by Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Andrew Brunette also scored for Colorado.

Hustling from end to end and applying hard, clean hits, the Wild dominated the game in every facet except that pesky scoreboard.

After losing their touch and their cool in the ugly 5-1 loss at Colorado two days earlier, they came out firing and skating at a frenetic pace. They were noticeably physical, especially in the first half of the first period, but they maintained their discipline with only two penalties over the first 40 minutes. Oh, and they finally got a goal before the second intermission, too. The Avs outscored them 9-0 in the first two periods of the first four games.

Theodore was the reason Colorado still had a chance to win in the decisive third period. He denied all kinds of shots from every angle, whether it was a toe save of still-scoreless Marian Gaborik's wrister from just outside the crease, or a glove squeeze of another windup and sizzling slapper by Rolston.

Bouchard snagged a pass sent by Brent Burns and blasted a shot into the back of the net so fast Theodore had barely begun to lean the other way. That was the only blemish on Theodore's performance until the very end, and that was hardly his fault.

Brunette scored his third goal in as many games on a wide-open shot that knocked the water bottle off the top of the crossbar. Defenseman Kim Johnsson was turned around trying to corral a loose puck, giving Brunette an opening in front of Burns. ^Notes:@ Theodore's personal playoff record for saves is 56 as a rookie in 1997 for Montreal in a 4-3 triple-overtime win over New Jersey. ... Minnesota wings Mark Parrish (concussion) and Branko Radivojevic (knee) were scratched as a result of injuries suffered earlier in the series. Defenseman Erik Reitz made his debut for the Wild in place of Petteri Nummelin. ... Six of Wolski's 18 goals during the regular season were winners, tying for the team lead. ... Minnesota has held a lead in the series for only 4 minutes, 31 seconds out of a possible 324:23.

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