With the Minnesota Wild about to embark on its first post-season adventure in 5 years, I’ve decided to take a look back at the team’s 3 previous play-off runs.
In this edition, I will be re-visiting the 1st game of the 1st round from 2003, 2007 and 2008.
Before we all get wrapped up in play-off fever tomorrow, let’s take a little walk down memory lane.
2002/2003: Round 1, Game 1
Minnesota Wild @ Colorado Avalanche
9:00 PM ET, April 10, 2003
Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
On paper, this series was a mis-match. The Avalanche had won two Stanley Cup titles in seven years and a record nine straight division championships, while the Wild was a third-year team making its first playoff appearance. Coach Jacques Lemaire even joked that his players might have to untie Colorado’s skates just to have a chance.
The Avs dominated the 1st period, outshooting the Wild 18-3, but the scores remained level thanks to an inspired performance from Dwayne Roloson, in only his 5th career start. He opened the game by stopping a wraparound by Bates Battaglia in the first minute, then made a diving glove save on a rebound by Sakic a few seconds later.
In the 2nd period, the Wild stunned the Avs when Filip Kuba scored the first postseason goal in Wild history, one-timing a pass from Andrew Brunette on the PP. 4 minutes later Marian Gaborik scored another PP goal, firing the puck between Patrick Roy’s legs. The Wild has barely finished celebrating when Wes Walz converted after a missed wrap-around chance from Pascal Dupuis.
Peter Forsberg, the league’s leading scorer with 106 points, was kept quiet as the looked to throw him off his game. Walz left Forsberg kneeling and holding his nose after a collision in the second period, and another check late in the period lifted him off the ice. Diminutive Cliff Ronning even took a shot at Forsberg shortly after jumping over the boards early in the third.
A goal from Joe Sakic before the end of the 2nd period gave Colorado a glimmer of hope, but they were unable to push on, and the game finished 4-2 to the Wild after Andrew Brunette and Milan Hedjuk traded goals late in the 3rd.
Interestingly, 3/6 of the goal scorers are still playing in the NHL, and Brunette only retired this year.
2006/2007: Round 1, Game 1
Minnesota Wild @ Anaheim Ducks
10:30 PM ET, April 11, 2007
Honda Center, Anaheim, California
The Wild finished the 2007 season in 7th place in the West, which meant they would be facing the 2nd seed, Pacific division champion Anaheim Ducks.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle pulled a surprise by starting Ilya Bryzgalov instead of JS Giguere, who had just taken time off due to medical complications with his newborn son.
Bryzgalov made 24 saves, but let in the opening goal, a slap-shot from Pavol Demitra in the 2nd period. 3 minutes after this, Teemu Selanne tied things up when he took a long pass from Francois Beauchemin, broke behind the defense and into the slot, where he slid the puck between Niklas Backstrom’s pads.
Dustin Penner scored the GWG with 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd period. Penner poked the puck in after Kim Johnsson crashed into Backstrom, sending him sprawling backward into the net. The puck was sitting in the crease, and Corey Perry swept it toward the goal. Penner took a couple of swipes at it and forced it in.
Backstrom thought the goal should have been disallowed: “I watched the replay and I was sure it was under me and nobody saw the puck,” he said. “Of course, you’re going to get the puck out from a goalie if you slash at it with your sticks. “That’s a bad goal and we lose a game on that,” added Backstrom, who stopped 32 shots.
Wild coach Jacques Lemaire wasn’t so sure it should’ve counted, either: “I don’t know if he stopped the puck or whether he was right on top of it or if it was under the pad,” Lemaire said. “He waited a bit and they whacked the puck right in.” Final score 2-1 to the Ducks.
Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Niklas Backstrom and Stephane Veilluex are the Wild players remaining from the team that played in this game.
2007/2008: Round 1, Game 1
Colorado Avalanche @ Minnesota Wild
6:00 PM ET, March 30, 2008
Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota
The Wild entered this series on the back of their 1st divisional title, where they met a Colorado team that had rallied it’s old stars for one last stab at glory.
The Avs made their early chances count. Kurt Sauer, who scored only once that season, got the first goal. Ryan Smyth followed with a power-play deflection, and the Avs were up 2-0 in the second period with only seven shots on net at that point. Jose Theodore thwarted the Wild at the other end with some huge saves.
The Wild scored twice in the 3rd to tie-it-up. First Mikko Koivu’s shot from beyond the circle glanced off Finger’s skate, with Brian Rolston parked in front of him, and ricocheted in. Then, with Todd Fedoruk playing the muscle man role on a power play Peter Nummelin made a short pass in front of the net. Fedoruk snagged it, pivoted and with some deft stick work sent the puck past a sprawling Theodore.
The Avs had three chances to win it near the end of regulation. David Jones kicked in a loose puck, which was waved off. Then, Milan Hejduk’s deflection of Chris Finger’s slap shot clanked off the post. Finally, Smyth was awarded a penalty shot with 2:27 remaining following a scrum around the crease, but Backstrom smothered his right-then-left attempt to sneak the puck around his stick.
Joe Sakic scored an NHL record 8th play-off OT winner, nudging Ruslan Salei’s ricocheted shot from the point past Niklas Backstrom. Jacques Lemaire said he thought his team might have been a bit tired in extra time. He blamed rookie center James Sheppard for leaving the net on the fateful play.
“We know we can play these guys,” Koivu said. “We know it’s going to be tight all the way. That’s how it’s going to be. It’s going to be a fight. Every game, every shift. We just couldn’t finish the way we wanted.” Final score, 3-2 to the Avs.
The Avs coach in this game was, current Chicago Blackhawks coach, Joel Quenneville.
Okay, that’s all for this edition of “Do You Remember The First Time?”. I’ll be back later in the week to look at how the Wild fared in Game 2 of each series. Go Wild!