- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
- 0 Shares
DENVER -- P.A. Parenteau on Saturday morning had the look of a player intent on raising his game.
During a brief exchange with ESPN.com after the morning skate, he talked about how big Game 5 would be that night, and his eyes widened with intensity. Little did we know that he also had received a pep talk heading into the game.
"I had a good conversation with P.A. after Game 4," Avs coach Patrick Roy said Sunday.
"It was nice to talk to him," Parenteau said Sunday. "He's always believed in me. It was good to have that chat for sure."
Parenteau was scuffling in the opening four games of the series, going pointless and especially struggling, like many of his teammates, in those two losses at Minnesota. To be fair, the veteran winger missed a month late in the regular season with a knee injury and played in only the last two regular-season games as a tuneup before the playoffs. It most often takes time for a player to find his rhythm again, and that certainly has been the case for Parenteau.
But on Saturday night, his game-tying goal capped a strong effort overall, helping the Avs capture a 4-3 overtime win and a 3-2 series lead. It's what Roy wanted to see.
"Confidence comes from how hard you want to work," Roy said. "If you go to Wal-Mart, you cannot buy confidence from the business of hockey because they don't sell confidence at Wal-Mart. At the same time, if you move your feet, and he's moving like he was [Saturday], it's totally different. He's a smart hockey player, really good hockey IQ, and he's capable of having an IQ by playing at a faster pace. And that's what he did. I thought it was a very good game for him, and we needed that."
Parenteau said it was a simple solution for him.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to competing more and to play with more of an edge," he said. "It's the playoffs. I think I did that [Saturday] night and it made a difference in my game."
One of the byproducts of having lost leading scorer Matt Duchene late in the season is that it has hurt the Avs' top-six balance. In particular, Parenteau's second line with Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn hadn't been quite as productive in the first four playoff games as hoped, and that has put a lot more pressure on the top line centered by Paul Stastny (though O'Reilly did have two goals in the opening four games).
Saturday's strong effort by the O'Reilly line gave the Avs a totally different complexion.
"That line was very good," Roy said. "I thought they had good puck position defensively, I thought they moved the puck well, I thought they had a really good game. They had a lot of good chances."
Added Parenteau: "We skated more, we competed more. In Minny, it was tough because we couldn't generate much offensively. [Saturday] was nice to see our line skate and make plays."
The question now is whether Duchene will be back to bolster the Avs' lineup in Minnesota for Game 6 on Monday night. The star center took part in an optional skate Sunday, but since his injury, he has participated only once with his teammates in a full skate, on Saturday morning before Game 5.
"The tough part right now is that he hasn't had a chance to have a full [off-day] practice with us," Roy said.
The Avs coach said Duchene would take the full morning skate Monday in St. Paul, and then the team would make a call.
"He seems to react well right now to the treatment, he looks good," Roy said. "We're going to be patient. ... We'll see how he feels after the morning skate. And then we'll make a decision."
If Duchene does get the green light, he'll be eased into the lineup.
"You can't jump in and play the same way you were before you got hurt," said Roy. "He'll just slowly start with, let's say fourth line and power play, then you see how he feels."
The Avs will not rush him back just because they have a chance to clinch a second-round berth with a win Monday night. If he's back, it's because he's ready to come back.
"It's not my decision, and it's not his decision. It's our team doctor's," said Roy. "We've said all along, we're going to be smart with him. He's a talented player, he's a great hockey player. He wants to play; if it was up to him, he'd be in the lineup tomorrow. But it's not how it works."
With or without Duchene, Roy made a point of underlining his satisfaction of seeing his team pump four goals past Wild rookie goalie Darcy Kuemper in Game 5. Was the former superstar goalie Roy trying to get in the head of Kuemper?
"One thing that's important to me is that we scored four goals on their goalie," said Roy, who was not asked about Kuemper but brought it up himself. "He came in midway through [the] second period of Game 2, played really well. Then we couldn't score in Game 3. Then it starts to get into our head. Now scoring four goals yesterday, we start to have better looks at him and I think we started to know that we can beat this guy, which is very positive going there. It's a big difference, in my opinion."
Just as important as seeing Parenteau have a good game. They'll need it again Monday night in order to avoid a seventh game.
14dScott Burnside and Craig Custance