As the Minnesota Wild prepare to face the Colorado Avalanche in the 1st round of this year’s playoffs, let’s look back at the second time these teams have met in the playoffs and see how things turned out then, starting with Game 1.
Back in 2007/08, the Wild secured the 3rd playoff berth in their history, their 2nd in two seasons, by winning the Northwest Division which made them the #3 seed in the Western Conference going into the playoffs. The roster was maybe as strong as it has ever been (besides the current one) with Marian Gaborik, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brian Rolston, Pavol Demitra, Brent Burns, Mikko Koivu, Niklas Backstrom leading the way under Jacques Lemaire.
The Avalanche finished 2nd in the division, 3 points behind the Wild, which made them the #6 seed in the West and set up a 1st round match-up between the two divisional rivals with the first game being played in Minnesota on the 9th of April, 2008. They were coached by, current Chicago Blackhawks bench boss, Joel Quenville and their roster featured a mix of young talent (Paul Stasny, Wojtek Wolski), and old stars aiming for one last shot of glory (Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote, Jose Theodore).
Game 1 (2-3 OT)
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.
1) Jose Theodore
2) Brian Rolston
3) Todd Fedoruk
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