Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Wild makes history in comeback thriller

NHL PLAYOFFMinnesota fought back from 3-1 to down Vancouver, making it the first team to return from that deficit and win twice in the same season


Minnesota Wild's Wes Waltz celebrates after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period of NHL playoff action in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Thursday. The Wild won the game 4-2 and the series 3-2 and will now face the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the Western Conference Finals.


The Minnesota Wild made history and the Western Conference finals with a pair of improbable comebacks.

Darby Hendrickson scored with 5:12 left as the Wild rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 in Game 7 Thursday night.

The rally completed the Wild's second comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to win in these playoffs. No team had done that twice in the same year, but the three-year-old Wild have made history in their first trip to the postseason.

"We were down on the scoreboard but we weren't down in here," said Hendrickson, a Minnesota native who also scored the franchise's first goal. "We didn't have the word quit in us."

The sixth-seeded Wild will host Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against No. 7 Anaheim today.

In the first round, Minnesota stormed back to win the final three games against the Colorado Avalanche. In each series, the Wild won two of the last three -- including Game 7 -- on the road.

"We're going to enjoy this one tonight, no team has ever done it," said Wes Walz, who tied it 2-2 at 8:05 of the third period. "We normally keep our emotions in check but in this case we're going to let them go crazy -- for at least a few hours anyway."

Vancouver's loss ruined the chance for the first all-Canada Stanley Cup finals since Calgary beat Montreal in 1989. The Ottawa Senators, who had an NHL-best 113 points this season, will play the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals.

"We played our best game tonight of this series and they found a way to win," Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. "You have to compliment them for finding a way to win and wish them well as they move forward."

The Wild are 6-0 when facing elimination. In the final three wins against Vancouver, normally defensive-minded Minnesota outscored the Canucks 16-5.

Hendrickson took a drop pass from Richard Park just inside the Vancouver blue line and sent a long, low slap shot under the glove of Dan Cloutier.

Pascal Dupuis, who missed the last game with an ankle injury, made it 4-2 with 2:33 left.

He connected on a power play after Todd Bertuzzi was sent off for pushing Minnesota defenseman Andrei Zyuzin into goalie Dwayne Roloson.

Mattias Ohlund and Bertuzzi scored 61 seconds apart in the second period to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead. But the Wild, as they have throughout their playoff run, took advantage of a good break to get back in the game.

Marek Malik's clearing attempt hit Sergei Zholtok's stick behind the Vancouver net, and the puck bounced over the net. Dupuis batted it out of the air on the other side for his first goal of the game.

For the third straight game the Canucks blitzed Minnesota, outshooting the Wild 12-6, and delivering several big body checks in the first period. But for the third straight game the Canucks couldn't put an early goal past Roloson.

Ohlund finally scored with a low slap shot from the top of the left circle that beat a screened Roloson at 11:29 of the second. Bertuzzi scored his only goal of the second round on a breakaway during the next shift.

Henrik Sedin's long pass bounced off a Wild stick at center ice and straight to Bertuzzi behind the Minnesota defense. Bertuzzi, who had 46 regular-season goals, skated in and roofed a backhand over Roloson's glove for his second goal in 14 playoff games.

But Dupuis took advantage of the first break, and Walz tied it on another one in the third.

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