Twins turn to surprising source for game-winner
By Michael Russo
Minneapolis Star Tribune
ST. PAU — Turns out Keith Carney lied to his 23-year-old protege Brent Burns before Friday night’s game.
Each night after Burns feeds Carney one-time passes during warmups, the 38-year-old Wild blueliner skates up to Burns and says, "Eww, I’ve got a shooter tonight."
"Tonight he says, ‘This stick doesn’t have a shot in it. It’s just a passer tonight,"’ Burns said, smiling ear-to-ear. "And then he blasts in the winner. That was awesome!"
Playoff overtime goals often come from unlikely sources, and Carney, one of the unlikeliest of sources, may have saved the Wild’s season Friday night by scoring 1 minute, 14 seconds into overtime to lift the Wild to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
The goal — Carney’s third in 87 career playoff games and first since April 24, 1999 — evened the best-of-seven quarterfinals at one game apiece with Game 3 coming Monday in Denver.
"Ahh, feels good," said Carney.
"It was a must-win for us, and it feels good to get the win and hopefully now we can keep this momentum," the soft-spoken defenseman added. "We knew we had to win tonight."
Of course, it certainly got hairy there for a few moments.
Peter Forsberg’s late first-period goal held up until Pavol Demitra’s power-play goal early in the third period.
Then, the Wild thought it secured a dramatic victory when Mikko Koivu’s 54-foot fluttering slapshot soared by Jose Theodore, who had been tremendous, with 1:51 left in regulation. But just 42 seconds later, defenseman Kim Johnsson was called for hooking Ryan Smyth.
"I never touched him. I lifted his stick. That’s all I did," Johnsson said. "I think that’s legal still — I hope."
The Avalanche pulled Theodore for an extra attacker, and Milan Hejduk stunned the overstuffed crowd by redirecting John-Michael Liles’ point shot with 43.8 seconds left for a 2-2 tie.
"But we’ve got plenty of veteran guys in here that all stepped up and said, ‘Stay composed, boys. Continue to do what we’re doing. We’ll be just fine,"’ said Brian Rolston.
Just over a minute left in OT, Mikko Koivu cycled the puck in the corner with Joe Sakic on his tail. He backhanded it to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who tried to throw the puck into the crease for Rolston.
But defenseman Ruslan Salei’s quick clear hit the half-wall. Carney, with Rolston at the goal mouth, stepped into the puck and one-timed it off Salei’s skate and by Theodore for the winner.
"It went through by aura," Rolston said with a wink. "Let’s face it, we got a nice bounce, but that’s how overtime goals in the playoffs are scored — wraparounds, off skates and things like that."
Told it was Carney’s first playoff goal since 1999, Burns said, "I was 14. I was probably watching."
The Wild pressured Theodore all game. Koivu and Marian Gaborik hit the post 10 seconds apart in the second period.
The Avalanche also blocked 23 shots, so it was almost fitting that Carney’s shot deflected in off Salei’s skate. Also, it’s almost comical that after all the pucks thrown at the net, Koivu scored from just inside the blue line after Bouchard caused a neutral-zone turnover.
"Sometimes it’s tough to find a way to get the puck to the net," Koivu said. "Sometimes you need the lucky bounce. You just have to work for it and believe you’ll get it."