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Minnesota 3, Colorado 2
Posted: Thursday April 24, 2003 09:23 AM
Minnesota Wild
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Minneapolis-Saint Paul
 

Colorado Avalanche
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Denver
 

DENVER (Ticker) -- When it mattered most, the team that scored last won.

Andrew Brunette scored 3:25 into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a stunning 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Game Seven of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Appearing in the playoffs for the first time in its three-year history, Minnesota became just the 17th team in NHL history to win a series after trailing three games to one.

The Wild trailed twice in this game, tying it on power-play tallies by Pascal Dupuis and Marian Gaborik before Brunette scored the biggest goal in team history.

After getting a drop pass from Sergei Zholtok just inside the Colorado blue line, Brunette drifted down the slot, eased past defenseman Derek Morris and cut right across the crease, sliding a backhander around the left pad of goaltender Patrick Roy.

"It's kind of a blur," Brunette said. "I had a little bit of room for the first time all season, it felt like, and I was going to shoot from outside. But I don't have a great shot and I didn't think I would beat him, so I tried to go to 'old faithful.' I got the line and finally got a little bit of room to make something happen out of it and after that, instincts kind of just took over."

As coach Jacques Lemaire smiled behind the bench, Brunette's teammates poured out to celebrate. They will face the Vancouver Canucks in the conference semifinals beginning Friday.

"Right now, it's so exciting," center Darby Hendrickson said. "We won two overtimes in a row. Things are going quickly, but you have to refocus. We've got to travel, we have to be ready, we've got to be refocused, and that's what it's all about."

It was a shocking defeat for the Avalanche, who have lost their last five playoff games when able to eliminate an opponent.

"We played with fire, burned ourselves," Roy said. "We did that a couple of years in a row and this year, we paid for that. We were not ready in Game Five, we gave them a chance to come back. And they beat us in Game Six. ... I think that was a team that wanted it more than us."

The team that scored first won each of the first six games of the series, and Colorado grabbed the lead 6:16 into the second period.

Just over a minute after teammate Steven Reinprecht was stopped on a breakaway, Peter Forsberg chipped the rebound of Joe Sakic's shot past goaltender Manny Fernandez for his second playoff goal.

The lead lasted just 82 seconds as defenseman Adam Foote took a borderline boarding penalty at 7:13 and Minnesota converted the ensuing power play.

Zholtok swooped around the left goalpost and into the faceoff circle before wristing a shot that Roy stopped. But Dupuis backhanded the rebound under the goalie's left pad for his second goal of the series.

Defenseman Rob Blake nearly put the Avalanche back in front with 5:19 left in the period, but his shot deflected off the crossbar. A minute later, Fernandez got the shaft of his stick on Sakic's short backhander.

"We played well defensively and we chose what we gave them," said Fernandez, who replaced Dwayne Roloson in the first period of Game Four. "I didn't look at what I had to do or what kind of saves I had to make. I went out there, simple as it gets."

Colorado had a 4-on-3 power play with 6:45 left in regulation when Sakic got a cross-ice pass from Alex Tanguay at the inner edge of the right faceoff circle and blasted a one-timer past Fernandez's glove side.

"Joe, he's been a nightmare for me this series," Fernandez said. "For both me and Rollie, he's been amazing. He's got a great shot. He's just the kind of player you don't leave alone in the slot for too long."

Again, the lead did not last long. Blake bowled over Hendrickson and was penalized for charging with 5:03 to play and the Wild tied it just 35 seconds into their fourth power play of the night.

Roy took defenseman Filip Kuba's wrist shot from the right circle off his midsection and Gaborik shoved in the rebound for his fourth goal of the series.

"It was a good shot from Kuba on the point and Bruno got in there and it was an open net. I just tried to chip it in," Gaborik said. "It went in and I knew it was important."

The Wild were 7-for-29 on the power play in the series.

"We found the seams, we found room on the 'PP' and got some lucky bounces, some good rebounds," Zholtok said. "That's what brings us close to the Avalanche."

"They got a couple of power-play goals again," Foote said. "We got beat by a team that wanted it more and was desperate. It's simply that. I can't tell you 10 things when I think that's what happened."

The teams headed to overtime for the second time in 24 hours after Minnesota stayed alive Monday with a 3-2 victory.

The Avalanche controlled play early in the extra period, but Fernandez made a lunging glove stop on Blake's slap shot from above the right circle for the last of his 43 saves.

"He was outstanding," Sakic said. "Roloson was real good for them in his four games as well, but Manny, he played great."

Roy stopped 27 shots and fell to 6-7 lifetime in Game Sevens.

 


 
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