Wild fall, trail 3-2 in series

By Michael Russo

Star Tribune

ST. PAUL, Minn. — One season ago, Jose Theodore was relegated to being the Colorado Avalanche’s $5 million backup goaltender.

But Thursday night, Theodore showed a restless sellout crowd of 19,364 exactly why he was the winner of the NHL’s 2002 Hart and Vezina trophies and is largely considered the NHL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Despite the Wild dominating the Avalanche in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, Theodore was a one-man show and the sole reason the Wild’s season is on the brink of going down the drain after a wrenching 3-2 loss.


"Jose saved us tonight," said Avs forward Peter Forsberg. "It’s great to have a goalie like that to steal a win on the road."

After working so hard to win its first division title and gain home-ice advantage, the Wild faces the arduous task of having to rally from a 3-2 series deficit with Game 6 on Saturday night in Denver.

"We’re proud of our effort," said Wild forward Brian Rolston, who’s been involved in 10 of the Wild’s 11 goals in the series and had a goal and an assist on Thursday. "No one’s going to be hanging their head in here. We’ll be ready in Colorado."

The only thing the Wild could improve on in Denver is scoring.

The Wild outshot the Avalanche 40-17. Theodore, who stopped 38 shots, kept the score deadlocked at 1-1 after two periods despite being outshot 32-14.

That cushion allowed the Avalanche to get third-period goals 1 minute, 19 seconds apart by Wojtek Wolski and Paul Stastny as the Wild lost its second in a row since gaining a 2-1 series’ lead on Monday.

The Game 5 winner of a series tied 2-2 has won 158 of a possible 196 series (80.6 percent).

Still, Rolston said, "We have a lot of character in this dressing room and we’ll see that character in Colorado."


Wojtek’s go-ahead goal came after a gassed Sean Hill took an interference penalty on Ryan Smyth. The penalty came after Mikko Koivu’s turnover led to intense Colorado pressure.

"It’s a long series, a long game," Koivu said. "Mistakes will happen. Just to have to live with that."

It was a backbreaking goal — Niklas Backstrom was late getting across — because the Wild had killed 1:56 of Hill’s penalty.

"We were shocked. Shocked," said Wild center Eric Belanger. "It was, ‘Oh, boy, we’re playing well,’ and ... then they scored and it was, ‘How is this possible?"’

Soon after, a Brent Burns turnover led to Stastny’s eventual winner.

Still, the Wild sent wave after wave at Theodore, but the only outcome was the crowd’s anxiety intensifying and Wild players skating away shaking their heads.

"I just tried to make every save," said Theodore. "I knew they were going to come out hard. We all knew that."

Rolston said the Wild didn’t do enough.


"I don’t know how many huge, huge saves he made. But he made quite a few," he said. "More traffic is needed. He played very well, but this is the playoffs, and sometimes it takes a little bit more to score in the playoffs."

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