DENVER - Coming back is nice and exciting - heck, it even gives head coach Patrick Roy goosebumps. But it also means that Colorado was outplayed for much of the game.
The Avalanche began the third period down 4-2 to the Wild. They closed the margin midway through and yet still needed a major gamble by Roy to pull his goalie, a miraculous hustle-play by Erik Johnson and an improbable goal with 13.4 seconds remaining to just even the game.
Everything seemed to work in their favor - which Colorado understands they cannot rely on such fortunate events to constantly occur.
"We know that we're not going to come back from two goals down going into the third period every night - that's just not going to happen," rookie Nathan MacKinnon said. Forward Paul Stastny would score in the extra period to win the game for the Avalanche. "We played our best hockey in the third and overtime, we just have to carry over from that."
Several players in the dressing room reiterated that Game 1 was far from the Avalanche's best showing. Minnesota accounted for twice as many shots in the second period as Colorado could manage - 12 for the Wild and only six for the Avalanche - to give them the lead going into the final period.
Many of Colorado's playoff-rookies seemed to figure out the tempo that occurs in these intense series - the only way most of them play - very quickly.
Roy asserted that despite the emotion that came with securing the first victory in this series, it is just one game. They will need to play much better and Game 2 - maintaining their home-ice advantage by sweeping both games at the Pepsi Center before going on the road - is just as important.
"Now it's up to us to just step on the gas," captain Gabriel Landeskog confided. The Avalanche felt fortunate and a little bit drained after the overtime win. The effect on the opposite bench - letting that game slip away - will heighten any focus or tenacity they hope to bring with them to the ice Saturday night.
"They're going to come out hard because they probably felt that [last game] got away from them a little bit," he continued.
The Avalanche recognize that there is a huge, momentum-drive difference between a split and heading to Minnesota up 2-0. A edge like that in the series could be ultimately pivotal - but they'd much rather do that without the drama.