The team’s fourth-string goalie made the key saves down the stretch.
Patrick Sharp came roaring down the ice on a breakaway. He took a direct path toward Ilya Bryzgalov, who already had allowed two goals on the first five shots he faced.
On the confidence meter, this scenario fell somewhere between cover your eyes and, hey, maybe the game operations folks should show Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on the videoboard again.
You could hear a simultaneous gulp from 19,000 fans inside Xcel Energy Center.
No chance, right?
Leave it to the Wild’s quirky goalie to script something wholly unexpected. Bryzgalov extended his right leg and made a textbook pad save that preserved a one-goal lead.
That highlight save also began a string of impressive stops by Bryzgalov, who experienced his usual tense moments but also stood tall to help the Wild even the series Friday with a 4-2 victory over Chicago in Game 4.
His robbery of Sharp became a pivotal moment.
“At the time, you can call it a game-changing save,” Zach Parise said.
The fact that the Wild has made this Western Conference semifinal a best-of-three series against the defending champions with Bryzgalov — the team’s fourth goalie — seems illogical.
Bryzgalov plays goalie like a guy walking across high wire. You keep waiting for him to wobble. Mike Yeo should keep a bottle of antacid next to him on the bench.
Bryzgalov gave up a softy on the fourth shot he faced with 38 seconds left in the first period. It was the kind of goal that can suck the life out of a team and home crowd.
On the play, defenseman Clayton Stoner got caught in the offensive zone, leaving Mikko Koivu back on defense. Sharp wove around Koivu and put the puck between Bryzgalov’s legs to tie the score at 1-1.
Bryzgalov settled down after giving up his second goal on a redirection and kept his team in the game with a couple of beauties.
Bryzgalov has become an unlikely story after being benched in Game 2 of the Colorado series. He was asked this week about his mental approach to that demotion, knowing he might not get another shot in a Wild uniform.
“Like all professional athletes, you’ve got to come to the practice rink every day, and we have to do whatever they ask us to do,” he said. “You have to keep yourself in shape because you never know what’s going to happen. Obviously if you ….”
He stopped in mid-sentence and paused for seven awkward seconds. He had a blank expression. Then he started laughing.
“I forgot the question,” he admitted.
Hard to blame the guy. Up until Game 3 of this Western Conference semifinal series, Brygzalov — as well as Yeo —basically only heard a variation of the same question regarding the team’s goalie situation: Can this actually work?
|Cleveland - LP: T. Bauer||1||FINAL|
|Minnesota - WP: A. Swarzak||3|
|Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake||1||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - WP: K. Lohse||5|
|Kansas City - WP: W. Davis||2||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - LP: Z. Putnam||1|
|Washington - LP: S. Strasburg||4||FINAL|
|Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa||6|
|NY Mets - WP: B. Colon||3||FINAL|
|Seattle - LP: T. Walker||2|
|Detroit - WP: A. Sanchez||11||FINAL|
|Arizona - LP: T. Cahill||5|
|Los Angeles||0||Top 6th Inning|
|Texas||1||Top 5th Inning|
|Boston||3||Bottom 4th Inning|
|Miami||1||Top 6th Inning|
|Tampa Bay||1||Bottom 4th Inning|
|San Diego||2||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Houston - B. Peacock||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - J. Chavez|
|Baltimore - C. Tillman||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - J. Weaver|
|Calgary||7/24/14 8:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||7/25/14 9:00 PM|
|Ottawa||7/26/14 6:00 PM|
|Toronto||7/26/14 9:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||7/31/14 6:00 PM|
|New York||9:30 PM|