The Minnesota Wild's playoff series with the Colorado Avalanche is tied, 2-2.
But right now, it feels like one team has the upper hand.
After a heartbreaking overtime loss in game one, followed by a poor performance defending rookie Justin McKinnon in game two, the Wild appeared on the edge. They had lost a chance to wrestle the home-ice advantage from the Avs, despite being so close.
Then in game three, Darcy Kuemper pitched a 22-save shutout to get the Wild on the series board. Game four showed Minnesota playing arguably their most suffocating defense of the season. Meanwhile in both contests, the offense was swarming, putting shot after shot on net.
The Avs came to St. Paul up 2-0 in this series, against a team that just made a goalie change, with grumbling about the coach and all those underperforming big-money stars and…now the Wild are looking like the greatest team on earth, while the Avs look like a shabby jalopy belching exhaust, just trying to get to the gas station for a few bucks of unleaded.
"It's crazy how momentum shifts in a series like this," said Charlie Coyle, according to FOX Sports. "We go down 0-2 in the first two games, and now we're tied 2-2 and things are looking bright. But we just need to stay on that kind of even keel there. We can't get too high."
The past two games have served as something of a coming out party for the Wild's young Mikael Granlund. He scored the game-winner in overtime of game three, thanks to a ridiculous amount of personal effort. He followed it up by blocking three shots in less than a minute while the Wild were down 6-on-4 with a minute to go in game four's 2-1 win.
Michael Russo of the Star Tribune writes the 22-year-old Finn had a reputation as a playmaker, but one who wouldn't go toward the middle and get physical. He's proven he'll throw his body around now, Russo says, including blocking hard shots late in the game. Others agree.
All that said, the Wild didn't perform as well in the Rockies as they did in Minneapolis. And as NHL.com notes, the Western Conference teams are 16-2 at home during the first round so far.
And the Avalanche, if they're shaken, aren't letting on, as the NHL.com series blog reports.
"We know that we've got some areas to work on and some areas need to get better, but there's no panic in our room," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We believe in ourselves."
Added Colorado head coach Patrick Roy, when asked if he was worried about his team showing up for Saturday's game five:
"I think it's rude to ask are we going to show up. I think we deserve more respect. I'm proud of my team and I'm not going to throw them under the bus because I'm their partner ... Am I satisfied? The answer is no, but let's not forget we're playing against a good team, a team that played really well in their building."
Go ahead or fall behind: That's what's on the line tonight.
The Avs' leading scorer, Matt Duchene, skated with the team Saturday but will not play, ESPN reports. He's been out since March with a knee injury. Darcy Kuemper is expected to be in net once again for the Wild; Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.