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Minnesota 3, Colorado 2
Posted: Tuesday April 22, 2003 12:39 AM
Colorado Avalanche
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Denver
 

Minnesota Wild
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Minneapolis-Saint Paul
 

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- Unlike the Colorado Avalanche, Richard Park finished the job.

Park scored his second goal of the game at 4:22 of overtime as the Minnesota Wild staved off elimination once again and forced a seventh and deciding game of their Western Conference quarterfinal series with a 3-2 victory over the Avalanche.

Park and Marian Gaborik scored in the third period to give the Wild a 2-0 lead and Minnesota fans started a celebration of the first home playoff victory in franchise history.

But Joe Sakic and defenseman Greg de Vries scored for Colorado in the final 3:26 of the period to send the game into overtime and leave the crowd stunned.

During the intermission, Minnesota regrouped, but never lost its composure.

"We needed to go out there and do the same things we did the first two periods. I think everybody on this team was pretty confident going into overtime," Wild left wing Antti Laaksonen said. "We didn't change anything. We just said we can't sit back and wait for them to come at us. We had to force them to make plays."

The Wild were not tentative in overtime, and Park delivered once again, taking a pass from Wes Walz and beating Patrick Roy with a shot from the right faceoff circle that deflected off the stick of Colorado defenseman Rob Blake and through the goaltender's pads.

"It was a turnover, Wes filled the middle, and I just tried to get a quick shot on net," said Park, who scored his first two playoff goals after collecting just one assist in the first five games of the series. "Anytime you can contribute offensively, it feels nice. After they scored the two goals, they're probably feeling good. We were a little disappointed, but the great thing was we had a chance to go out there and win."

Colorado failed for the fourth straight time to eliminate an opponent, including the last two games of this series. The Avalanche had a three games to two lead over Detroit in last year's conference finals, then did not score in the final two contests as the Red Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.

"I don't know if we played our best game tonight," Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "We played a simple road game."

The Avalanche will have one more chance to close out the Wild when the teams meet in Denver on Tuesday. Colorado was extended to a seventh game for a fifth straight series and for the seventh time in their last nine series overall.

"We have to play Game Seven now, we'll have to win that game," Roy said. "We've been there before. We're in our barn, so there's no reason for us not to be confident." Minnesota is playing in the first playoff series in its three-year history and hope at least one trend continues. The team that has scored first has won every game of the series.

"It's 0-0 now," Laaksonen said. "We've got a chance to win tomorrow. We're not looking at it as having to win for a third straight time."

Manny Fernandez won his second straight game in goal for the Wild, stopping 22 shots. He made his first career playoff start on Saturday and made 26 saves.

"What brought us here was our tenacity. We need to bring that to the seventh game, we can't change our play now," Fernandez said. "We have to have the same urgency."

Fernandez and Roy did not allow a goal through the first two periods of a tightly played affair.

Minnesota finally broke through early in the third. With defenders on either side, Gaborik was able to poke the puck ahead to Park, creating an odd-man rush.

Park gained control just outside the blue line, and beat Roy with a perfect wrist shot from the middle of the right circle. Roy was favoring the inside goalpost, but Park was able to find an opening over the goaltender's shoulder at 1:45.

Gaborik increased the lead to 2-0 when he beat Roy on a breakaway at 12:06 of the third. Gaborik took a long pass from Laaksonen and beat Roy with a wrist shot that went off his arm and into the net.

Joe Sakic gave Colorado life with his fifth goal of the series and 70th of his playoff career. He beat Fernandez with a high shot from the right circle with 3:26 left.

De Vries stunned the Wild by scoring with 92 seconds left in the third period, taking a centering pass between the circles from Peter Forsberg and beating Fernandez with a shot between his pads.

Minnesota caught a break in the first minute of the third when Fernandez made a glove save on a slap shot by Forsberg. The puck squirted out of the goalie's glove and dropped behind his shoulder, but Fernandez was able to fall back and clear it away with his stick to keep the game scoreless.

The Avalanche played without veteran defenseman Adam Foote, who was scratched due to a foot injury. His absence became more apparent as the game wore on and Minnesota was able to open up things offensively.

Granato said Foote's status for Tuesday was questionable.

"He's got a sore foot. We'll see (Tuesday)," Granato added.

The teams played a penalty-free first period in which the Avalanche had a 9-7 edge in shots. Minnesota was 5-for-23 with the man advantage entering the game, the best of any team in the playoffs, but failed in both of its chances in this one.

Roy stopped 20 shots, but fell to 12-4 in his last 16 games following his playoff losses. If the Wild are intimidated at all by the stature of Roy, it did not show on Monday.

"The mystique would be there if we didn't score," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.

The Avalanche are trying to reach the conference semifinals for the seventh time in nine seasons.

"We'll go home and be ready to play," Colorado defenseman Derek Morris said. "We're not in shape now. We'll be in shape for Game Seven."

 


 
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