The Las Vegas-based Golden Knights had the most wins in the NHL's truncated 56-game schedule with 40. They shared the most points with Colorado at 82, losing a tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed in the West.
This matters not. The Golden Knights are in trouble. They not only have lost all momentum in their opening series; the Knights will be fighting against the Wild's unprecedented history in Game 7s on Friday night in T-Mobile Arena.
The crowd will be more than 12,000, the Vegas pregame histrionics will get 'em in a frenzy, but all Wild followers know what the Knights can expect to hear for 20-30 seconds when the result becomes clear:
It always has been thus when the Wild play a Game 7, which are always played on the road. When the Wild gets the game-winning or backbreaking goal, the reflections of players include this memory:
The crescendo from the home team's crowd suddenly turning to eerie quiet.
That's what I remember from the first of those: The sound inside Pepsi Center on a Tuesday night in April 2003, when Andrew Brunette scored what remains the most famous goal in the Wild's 20 seasons.
Brunette used those great hands to beat all-world goaltender Patrick Roy at 3:25 of overtime, completing the Wild's comeback from 3-1 down in the quarterfinals series against the Avalanche.
There were 10 seconds of agonized gasps, then all you could hear inside the arena were the hoots and hollers of the Wild on the ice and teammates scrambling over the boards.
Get ready for the silence, you hockey-come-latelys out there in Vegas. It always happens when the Wild skates confidently onto the ice for a Game 7.
"Always" being three, in this case.
6/22/2003: Wild 3, Avs 2 (OT)
This was Season 3 for the Wild and its first playoff series. The Wild-ings won the opener 4-2. Colorado then won three in a row, with coach Jacques Lemaire making a goalie switch in Game 4 in St. Paul. He inserted his nephew, Manny Fernandez, in place of Dwayne Roloson in the 3-1 loss.
Fernandez was outstanding in Game 5, making 26 saves to help steal a 3-2 victory for survival. Back in St. Paul on Monday night, Richard Park flipped a changeup past Roy at 4:22 of overtime for a 3-2 win.
The NHL wasn't messing around with its playoff schedule. Game 7 was the next night in Denver.
Wes Walz had made life miserable for Peter Forsberg throughout the series, but Peter the Great did give the Avs a 1-0 lead with a rebound goal. The irrepressible Pascal Dupuis tied it almost immediately on a power play and it was 1-1 until Joe Sakic scored on an Avs power play with 6:45 left.
The crowd went into a victory celebration right then, except this was old-school NHL. Referee Kerry Fraser knew that if a holding-the-stick penalty on Darby Hendrickson led to Sakic's tiebreaking goal late in Game 7, the Wild deserved a last chance.
The Avs' Rob Blake was called for charging at 14:57. And 35 seconds later, Marian Gaborik — dang, that young man was something in the playoff run — tied it at 2-2.
There was a howl of disbelief in the Pepsi Center. And the next howl was followed by The Silence, as Brunette beat Roy in overtime.
"It's kind of a blur," Brunette said later. "You almost can't believe it."
5/8/03: Wild 4, Canucks 2
The underdogs were going to win the opener, then the much-loathed Matt Cooke (later a Wild-ing) scored with less than two seconds left to force overtime. Minnesota's own Trent Klatt assisted on that one, then scored Vancouver's 4-3 winner 3:42 into overtime.
Mere mortals would have rolled over right then. Lemaire's maniacs won Game 2 before losing two one-goal games at home, putting their playoff record in St. Paul temporarily at 1-4.
Notoriously, Todd Bertuzzi was arriving at the X and saw Wild fans lined up to get tickets for Game 6. He taunted them over this being a waste of time, guaranteeing the series was going to end at Game 5 in Vancouver.
The Wild won the next two games by a combined score of 12-3. On the Canucks' return to Vancouver for Game 7, Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund were greeted with a newspaper headline referring to them as "Dumb and Dumber" for ill-timed penalties in the blowout losses.
Bertuzzi scored to make it 2-0 for the Canucks in the middle of the second period. Dupuis and Walz tied it with goals, and then with about five minutes left, Hendrickson broke the tie and there came the silence.
"I had enough time to get off a slapshot and luckily it hit a corner," he said.
4/30/14: Wild 5, Avs 4 (0T)
This was almost a routine seven-game series victory for the Wild. The teams traded home wins through the first six games, meaning the Wild only had to come back from a 2-0 deficit, not the 3-1 that's dreaded by other franchises.
The Wild was down by one goal four times in Game 7. Jared Spurgeon tied it with 2½ minutes left, and then Nino Niederreiter scored five minutes into overtime, his second goal of the night. Nino was 21, an age similar to three other regulars from 2013-14 expected to create a bright Wild future: Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Jonas Brodin.
Seven years later, the future is now with Brodin as a remaining star, and the Wild looking at a chance to improve that perfect Game 7 record to 4-0.
The 2003 Wild still stand as the only team in NHL history to come back twice from down 3-1 in a single postseason. The St. Paul lads also can become the first NHL franchise to make that comeback three times.
It's obvious: There's no place the Wild would rather be in the spring than playing a Game 7 on the road. I'm saying Zach Parise gets the winner early in overtime. Then:
Bring on the Avs. Again.
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