ST. PAUL, Minn. - The momentum of this first-round playoff series has shifted to Minnesota.
For the Wild to keep their edge, or for the Colorado Avalanche to halt their momentum, they'll have to come up with a counter for the loss of an important player.
Wild left wing Matt Cooke was summoned for a hearing at the NHL office in New York regarding his kneeing penalty that injured Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie on Monday night in Game 3. The league said Cooke's meeting will be Wednesday. Guys don't travel cross country to defend themselves against simple fines, so Cooke is bound to get a multigame ban.
"Obviously things you don't want to have happen. I think we all want to play good, physical, intense hockey," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "At the same time, I know that they want to do the same to us. Neither side wants to see anyone get hurt."
Barrie will need four to six weeks to recover from a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy maintained Tuesday his stance from the night before, that the knee-on-knee incident in the open ice during the second period was the most important moment in Minnesota's 1-0 overtime win. Roy said Cooke should have received a major penalty (he got two minutes in the box) that could have taken the Wild out of their rhythm.
The Wild outshot the Avalanche 46-22 and won on Mikael Granlund's diving goal. Game 4 is set for Thursday, when the Avalanche will be without their top-scoring defenseman.
"Tyson, he's very good on the power play, but more than that he's always in the rush," Roy said. "He's like a fourth forward for us, and you need players like this. He was playing so well for us, and losing him certainly is going to hurt us. But listen: This is what we've been doing all year, finding a way to win when we lose important player."
Barrie, who had 13 goals and 25 assists during the regular season, will be replaced in the lineup by Ryan Wilson, who has one goal in his last 99 games. He won't be asked to replace Barrie's offense, obviously, but rather bring a physical presence to the corners and around the crease as the games only increase in intensity and roughness.
Roy, however, cautioned against the temptation to retaliate.
"It's not the time. The league will do its part. The referees will do their part on the ice. And we just got to go out there and play our game," Roy said. "I don't think we should focus on anything else."
Both teams took the day off, and players weren't available to reporters. Cooke didn't comment after the game, either.
The 35-year-old Cooke, in his first season with Minnesota, is one of the NHL's most notorious agitators. He has been suspended by the league six times, for 25 games plus seven more in the playoffs.
His last such punishment with the Pittsburgh Penguins was levied more than three years ago, what amounted to a 17-game ban for elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head. Sobered by the punishment, Cooke said then he needed to change the way he plays.
Cooke's tactics were questioned anew last year when his skate blade snapped the Achilles tendon of Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, but he was not penalized or suspended for that and said he meant no harm. Cooke's season penalty minutes totals have dropped sharply since that 2011 hit on McDonagh.
Cooke has provided valuable leadership to the Wild, and his Game 3 presence on the third line against Avalanche stars Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Paul Stastny was unmistakable.
"This is a tough loss for us, but I know that's a tough loss for them and I'm sure they're not going to sit around and feel sorry for themselves," Yeo said, adding: "That's part of what the playoffs is about, dealing with different types of adversities that come your way."
Roy took the same stance.
"You know what I did with the game yesterday? Put it in the garbage can," he said. "Simple as that. I think the game we played at home were more like we are. You cannot lose your sleep over a game like this. I know we're capable of making better decisions."