Brunette haunts Wild, but not in OT
By Patrick Reusse
DENVER — Andrew Brunette was located a couple of choppy steps from where he scored the most dramatic goal in Wild history in 2003. He had skated the puck to a few feet in front of Colorado goalie Patrick Roy and beat him clean at 3:25 of overtime.
Brunette has been in Colorado for the past three seasons. And on Monday night, it was the Avalanche desperate for a goal, trailing the Wild 2-1 with the clock running toward five minutes remaining.
Brunette was hanging out in the front of the net, as is his custom, when he was pushed from behind by the Wild’s Aaron Voros. The crafty Brunette made sure he landed on Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.
With Backstrom pinned there, the puck hopped away from Wild defenseman Sean Hill. Colorado veteran Joe Sakic found it with a backhand and the score was tied at 2-2.
The Wild’s Pierre-Marc Bouchard untied it at 11:58 of overtime on a centering pass from Brian Rolston, giving Minnesota a 3-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Brunette’s enormous moment for the Wild occurred on April 22, 2003. It gave the Wild a seven-game upset in its first playoff series. It also completed a comeback from a 3-1 deficit that the Wild would duplicate in the second round against Vancouver.
Everyone agreed the first time around was so joyous it would be difficult to put the Minnesota sporting public in the same frenzy.
A year ago, expectations were modest when the Wild returned to the playoffs against Anaheim. The series lasted five games and there was nothing close to a frenzy.
That has changed in April 2008. Five years later, the locals seem to have regained their lather for the playoffs. The noise in Xcel Energy Center last week was thunderous.
Obviously, overtime games will keep folks excited, and this spring there’s the bonus of expectations.
Those two OT games were split, so the teams were in Pepsi Center for a game that would give the favored Wild a significant advantage, or allow the Avalanche to maintain a home-ice advantage.
With five minutes left in the first period, Colorado controlled the puck in its offensive zone. Wojtek Wolski had room to make a pass to Sakic, and Sakic had room to fire a shot at Backstrom.
The ricochet off the Wild goalie went directly to Brunette, who was in a favored location — at the right post. Those quick hands had the puck back in the net instantly and the Avs had a 1-0 lead with 15:19 gone in the first period.
Brunette, 34, played three seasons in Minnesota and was a highly visible player. The Wild wouldn’t pay him after the lockout of 2004-05, though, and he signed with Colorado in August 2005.
The Wild maintained a distressing trend: They followed a scoreless first period with a scoreless second.
Fortunately for the Wild skaters, the third period has belonged to them. They outscored Colorado 4-1 in the third periods to get to overtime in St. Paul, and they had a 2-1 margin again on Monday.