DENVER - Nino Niederreiter scored his second goal of the game 5:02 into overtime leading the Minnesota Wild to a 5-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 on Wednesday night.
"When you see it go in that's pretty special," said Wild coach Mike Yeo.
It's the first playoff series win for the Wild since 2003 and it came in dramatic fashion, which was a theme all night.
The Avalanche scored on what appeared to be goalie interference at 2:52 into the game. Nick Holden put it in the net, and even though it was reviewed, the goal was allowed. What appeared to be a poor call didn't hinder the Wild.
"What I give our guys a lot of credit for is that we didn't get caught up in all of that stuff," Yeo said. "There's a lot of games through this series that I thought that we were playing very well through a game, then something bad happened and it kind of got away."
Instead the Wild came back, something they did all night. Mikko Koivu scored at 8:04 in the first.
The Avalanche held a 2-1 lead after the first period, but the lead was erased at 7:27 in the second period on a goal by Dany Heatley.
Game 7 saw a busy third period. Four goals were scored. Niederreiter got the Wild even at 3-3, paired with his game winner, he caught the attention of his coach.
"He raised the bar and he got himself in trouble because this is what we expect from him," Yeo joked. "But that whole line … was looking for something throughout the course of the game, and (Kyle Brodziak and Dany Heatley) and then getting Nino with those two guys, they were huge tonight."
Huge indeed, Heatley had a goal and two assists. Brodziak had three assists, and Niederreiter had an assist to go with his two goals. The line was also on the ice when Jared Spurgeon scored the game-tying goal at 17:33 in the third period.
Nick Holden, Jamie McGinn, Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson scored for the Avalanche.
Ilya Bryzgalov made a big save filling in for an injured Darcy Kuemper. He replaced Kuemper in the third period. Yeo did not have an update on Kuemper's condition during his post-game news conference.
"I just know that he couldn't continue in the game," Yeo said. "I am assuming that it probably happened in the collision behind the net, but I don't know for sure."
Yeo was complimentary of Bryzgalov, who held the net allowing the Wild to get the game winner.
"I thought he was great all night," Yeo said. "He was really vocal in the locker room and obviously he was ready for that opportunity."
The Wild defeats the Avalanche 4-3 in what was a very even series, with the home team winning each game up until Game 7. The only time the two teams were separated by two or more goals, was the result of empty net goals.
Wild fans celebrated the game-winning goal on Wednesday night at the Eagle Street Grille in St. Paul. KARE
"It was a tough series and I definitely have a lot of respect for (Colorado), the way that they play the game, the skill that they have," said Yeo. "They had a great season and it was an incredibly difficult series."
With the win, the Wild advances to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Semifinals.
"The way we have continued to fight, getting to this game, seeing the growth and maturity of a lot of our players, we're starting to get a feel for the soul of our team," Yeo said. "This is definitely that we can say, 'Let's keep building on this.' For me a big part of that is, let's not stop here."
The series starts in Chicago on Friday at 8:30 p.m. Game 2 is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday and Game 3 will be at the Xcel Energy Center at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.