Late-night magic — Avalanche wins thrilling playoff opener

DENVER — Paul Stastny scored with 13.4 seconds left in overtime, then put in the winner at 7:27 of overtime as the Avalanche opened the Stanley Cup playoffs with a thrilling 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night.

“We believe in ourselves,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “Sometimes, you’re not playing your best game, but the quality of our team is we found a way to win this game. That’s what you want in the playoffs.”

Game 2 is Saturday night at the Pepsi Center before the series shifts to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4.

Stastny beat Minnesota goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with a close wrist shot in overtime, just like he did to tie the game and force overtime.

“Once again, it shows character in this dressing room,” said Gabriel Landeskog, who also scored a goal. “There’s no quitting in here. We all wanted this so bad and we worked so hard to get home ice advantage and we weren’t going to let this one slide.”

Down 4-3, Roy pulled goaltender Semyon Varlamov for an extra skater with just more than three minutes remaining in the third period.

“Almost did it at four minutes,” Roy said, smiling.

Erik Johnson saved what would have been an empty-net goal by racing to the other end of the ice to slap away the puck before it crossed the goal line with just more than a minute remaining.

“What a comeback,” Johnson said of the Avalanche, which trailed, 4-2, after two periods thanks to a three-goal outburst by Minnesota. “That’s the kind of stuff you dream about when you’re a kid, winning playoff games like that.”

AVALANCHE VS. WILD

Best-of-seven; Avalanche lead, 1-0

April 17: Avalanche 5-4 (OT)

April 19: at Pepsi Center, 7:30 p.m.

April 21: at Minnesota, 5 p.m.

April 24: at Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

April 26*: at Pepsi Center, TBA

April 28*: at Minnesota, TBA

April 30*: at Pepsi Center, TBA

*if necessary


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