PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; Tied, 3-3.
Already enjoying a memorable run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Minnesota Wild are poised to make it unforgettable.
The 3-year-old franchise will look to make NHL history by advancing to the Western Conference finals when it takes on the Vancouver Canucks at General Motors Place in the deciding game of their series.
Minnesota, which is making its first appearance in the playoffs, is trying to become the first team to overcome two 3-1 series deficits in the same postseason. The Wild won three straight to stun the Colorado Avalanche in the conference quarterfinals.
“We’re a resilient bunch,” Wild forward Andrew Brunette said.
With Wednesday’s 5-1 win in Game 6, the Wild became just the fourth team in NHL history to win five elimination games in one postseason.
After playing four one-goal games in falling behind in the series, the Wild have outscored the slumping Canucks 12-2 over the last two games. They began their charge with a franchise-record seven goals in Game 5’s 7-2 win and carried their scoring touch over to Wednesday.
Brunette scored twice, and Marian Gaborik and Cliff Ronning each had two assists, and the Wild went 3-for-5 on the power play. The Wild have converted an NHL-high 25.5 percent (14-for-55) of their attempts with the man advantage during the postseason.
“If you asked us at the beginning of the series if we could play one game versus Vancouver, winner takes all,” Brunette said, “certainly we’d take it.”
Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire switched back to Roloson for Game 5 after Manny Fernandez dropped to 0-2 in this series with a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4.
Including his 25 saves in Game 5, Roloson has stopped 55 of 58 shots and has won three of four in this series after dropping three straight to Colorado.
Gaborik, Minnesota’s top scorer with 30 goals and 65 points during the regular season, has continued his offensive surge in the postseason.
His two assists Wednesday stretched his point streak to eight games. Gaborik now leads the NHL with 17 postseason points.
Including five regular-season meetings, Gaborik has 10 goals and 20 points in 11 games against the Canucks.
Ed Jovanovski scored his seventh goal of the playoffs for the Canucks, who have not lost three straight all season.
However, Vancouver has been outplayed throughout the series, holding the lead for only 38 minutes, 23 seconds. Two of its three victories have come in overtime.
Dan Cloutier stopped 74 of 84 shots over the first four games but has been porous over the last two. Cloutier yielded six goals on 21 shots before getting pulled after two periods in Game 5, and in Wednesday’s loss, stopped just 18 of 23 shots.
However, Cloutier isn’t the only problem.
Captain Markus Naslund’s assist Wednesday was just his second point in the series, while linemate Todd Bertuzzi is mired in an eight-game goal-scoring drought. Naslund and Bertuzzi combined for 94 goals and 201 points during the regular season.
Like the Wild, the Canucks have also overcome a 3-1 series deficit, rallying to beat the St. Louis Blues in the first round.
“I like the fact we’ve been through it once,” Canucks coach Marc Crawford said of another Game 7. “We have to play a full 60 minutes. Our guys are ready to do that.
“Better we made a mistake (Wednesday night) and not (Thursday) night.”
The winner will face the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the conference finals.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Wild - 6th seed; beat Colorado Avalanche 4-3, quarterfinals. Canucks - 4th seed; beat St. Louis Blues 4-3, quarterfinals.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Wild - Power play: 25.5 percent (14 for 55). Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (42 for 52). Canucks - Power play: 17.8 percent (13 for 73). Penalty killing: 78.4 percent (58 for 74).
GOALTENDERS: Wild - Roloson (4-4, 2.53 GAA); Fernandez (3-2, 2.23). Canucks - Cloutier (7-6, 3.17); Alex Auld (0-0, 3.16).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: 2-2-1. Vancouver won the first two meetings, and Minnesota rebounded to win the next two before the teams skated to a 2-2 tie in the last matchup Jan. 28. Gaborik had five goals and four assists in the series for the Wild, while Naslund and Bertuzzi each had five points to lead the Canucks.