DENVER - In the waning seconds of regulation, Paul Stastny arrived exactly where you expected him to be:
In position to score.
Stastny is not physically imposing with his 6-foot, 205-pound frame. He does not skate with blazing speed.
He has superior hockey wisdom, a gift from his father, Peter, who took a 16-season journey to the Hall of Fame. Peter was usually one step ahead of defenders.
So is Paul.
After ripping the game-tying goal into the net, Stastny took a few seconds to realize just what he had accomplished. He had lifted his Avalanche to overtime vs. the Wild.
"I didn't see it," Stastny said of the shot, laughing while displaying a wide gap where a front tooth used to reside, "and then I saw everyone erupt and get real excited. It took me a little second or two, and then I saw everyone coming at me."
There was plentiful reason for joy. The Avs had fallen behind 4-2, which drained most of the overpowering expectation and emotion from a packed Pepsi Center.
Coach Patrick Roy gambled. He tossed caution aside and ordered his players to attack. This strategy could have led to a five-goal defeat. Instead, Roy's daring resulted in a dramatic, unlikely, thrilling overtime win.
"It's the team that we got," Stastny said. "And his confidence in us. He's always playing to win. He never sits back. He never kind of plays it safe. He doesn't have that kind of mentality."
The mental side is crucial for Stastny, who has long thrived as a thinking man's hockey star. He again sneaked his way to open spaces in overtime and delivered the game-winning goal. Amid a swarm of defenders, Stastny found his own private patch of the ice where he could work.
If this appeared strangely - and painfully - familiar, that's because it was a rerun.
Colorado College fans were given an early glimpse into Stastny's mind power when he starred for the University of Denver, otherwise known as the Evil Empire of the North. In Stastny's final season at DU in 2005-2006, he scored a game-winner in overtime at World Arena. His shot started a jubilant party for the Pioneers and inspired thousands of CC fans to trudge home in agony.
He delivered a virtual repeat on Thursday at Pepsi Center.
Stastny appeared remarkably fresh after his starring role in this extended hockey drama. He has every reason to plunge into weariness. He traveled with the U.S. Olympic team to Russia, and it's been a brutally demanding several months.
He shrugged in disdain at the suggestion he was tired.
"You open your eyes and you realize it's tough, and you realize it's only going to get tougher," Stastny said. "You say I'm weary? No one cares. It's the playoffs and now everyone has a whole new lease on life and a whole new energy. ... You get no more rest."
This is true. Rest, for Stastny and his teammates, arrives when the season ends. For much of Thursday's game, that end was glaring at the Avs. The Wild dominated this night, outhustling and outhitting the home team.
Then Stastny skated to the rescue, saving his team and, perhaps, a season.