DENVER – Andrew Brunette stood maybe 50 feet from the greatest individual moment of his hockey career Thursday morning.
“I think about it every time I come in here,” he said. “Right over there.”
He nodded to the spot on the ice inside Pepsi Center where he scored his overtime goal in Game 7 of the 2003 playoffs as the sixth-seeded Wild stunned the third-seeded Colorado Avalanche in the first round.
Brunette’s game-winner still ranks as the top moment in Wild history, and it captured the essence of that spunky group of overachievers that defied odds by advancing to the Western Conference finals.
“Just being with that group of guys at that time was pretty special,” said Brunette, who now works as an advisor/assistant coach with the Wild. “You only get so many chances in your career to be with a group like that and do some of the things we did. I think you cherished it going through it, but looking back, you cherish it even more.”
Brunette reflected on that unexpected postseason run a few hours before the Wild and Avalanche opened their playoff series. In a touch of irony, Colorado is coached by Patrick Roy, the goalie that Brunette beat with a backhander.
The Hall of Fame goalie retired after that game.
“He probably said, ‘If that guy can score on me, it’s time for me to hang ’em up,’ ” Brunette joked.
Said Roy: “I was hoping it wasn’t my last game, but when the game was over, I knew [my career] was over. My decision was made.”
Brunette said he’s never talked to Roy about their shared moment, not even when Brunette played three seasons for the Avs from 2005-06 to 2007-08. He scored 119 of his 268 regular-season goals in two stints for the Wild, from 2001-02 to 2003-04 and from 2008-09 to 2010-11.
Brunette’s only regret is that he doesn’t have a memento from that playoff goal.
“No stick, no puck,” he said.
He dropped his stick during the celebration and never retrieved it. He has no clue what happened to the puck.
Brunette has stayed connected to the game through coaching. He agreed to oversee the Wild’s power play this season. He misses being a player, though, a feeling he describes as living in a “fog.”
“I think a lot of days you still think you can play a little bit or wished you played,” he said. “It’s hard to get over that when you’re watching [as a coach]. I think it definitely takes some time. I think I’m starting to slowly get out of the fog a bit, but there’s still days that you miss it.”