BEYOND EL NIÑO
Game 7 will be remembered for Jared Spurgeon’s tying goal, Nino Niederreiter’s winner, and the remarkable resemblance to the Wild’s other historic moment in Colorado: a Game 7 OT stunner 11 years earlier. Surely to be replaced by new memories as soon as the puck drops in Chicago, these moments are worth one more look back:
Goalie Darcy Kuemper’s head hit Ryan Suter’s hip after a collision between Kuemper and Colorado’s Matt Duchene behind the net in the second period. Kuemper stayed in the game, but after he allowed his second third-period goal, Suter skated up to Kuemper, talked to him and motioned for trainer Don Fuller. Kuemper left the game for Ilya Bryzgalov with the Wild trailing 4-3 with 8:13 left. Bryzgalov faced no shots in regulation and one in overtime to get the victory. He became the second goalie in NHL history to get a Game 7 win in relief (Grant Fuhr for Andy Moog in 1984).
Heater back on
Dany Heatley, welcome back. The former 50-goal scorer was scratched in seven of the final nine games of the regular season, with the Wild going 5-1-1. Despite leading all Wild players in playoff scoring, he didn’t play in Games 1 and 2. But in Game 7, Heatley had a goal and two assists, including a sweet saucer pass to spring Kyle Brodziak and Niederreiter on the game-winning 2-on-1.
Not a ‘refs series’
You need two hands to count the questionable calls against the Wild in the Colorado series, such as P.A. Parenteau scoring a tying goal in Game 5 despite Paul Stastny being offside. One of the more questionable calls was the prominent early story line in Game 7: Colorado’s Jamie McGinn toppling Kuemper on the Avs’ first goal. Niederreiter’s rocket saved us all from a refs rant that would have been one more intolerable unit to stack atop the Minnesota sports woe of recent years.
Brodziak worth a mention?
Brodziak was a Game 1 goat, turning a puck over with the Wild ahead 4-2 in the third period. That led to McGinn’s goal and eventual tying and winning goals by Stastny. Brodziak was scratched for the first time in his Wild career in Game 3 but returned in Game 4 on the fourth line, was elevated to the third line in the third period in Game 7 and assisted on three Minnesota goals.
Tie, tie, tie, tie, win
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Wild became the first team in NHL to score four tying goals (Mikko Koivu, Heatley, Niederreiter, Spurgeon) in a Game 7 and eventually win.
Hey, that felt familiar …
April 22, 2003: Andrew Brunette writes his name into Minnesota sports history books with an overtime winner — against current Avs coach Patrick Roy — in Game 7 in Denver. Eleven years and eight days later, it was Niederreiter’s turn to pull the same trick. The Wild became the first NHL team to not lead a Game 7 ’til the very end since … Brunette and the Wild did the same thing to Colorado in 2003.