VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—The Minnesota Wild made history and the Western Conference finals with a pair of improbable comebacks.
The rally completed the Wild’s second comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to win in these playoffs. No team had done that twice in the same year, but the 3-year-old Wild have made history in their first trip to the postseason.
“We were down on the scoreboard but we weren’t down in here,” said Hendrickson, a Minnesota native who also scored the franchise’s first goal.
“We didn’t have the word quit in us.”
The sixth-seeded Wild will host Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against No. 7 Anaheim on Saturday.
“Are you kidding,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said when asked if could have ever imagined getting this far, this soon. “Never in a million years.”
In the first round, Minnesota stormed back to win the final three games against the Colorado Avalanche. In each series, the Wild won two of the last three—including Game 7—on the road.
“We’re going to enjoy this one tonight, no team has ever done it,” said Wes Walz, who tied it 2-2 at 8:05 of the third period. “We normally keep our emotions in check but in this case we’re going to let them go crazy—for at least a few hours anyway.”
Vancouver’s loss ruined the chance for the first all-Canada Stanley Cup finals since Calgary beat Montreal in 1989. The Ottawa Senators, who had an NHL-best 113 points this season, will play the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference finals.
“We played our best game tonight of this series and they found a way to win,” Canucks coach Marc Crawford said. “You have to compliment them for finding a way to win and wish them well as they move forward.”
The Wild are 6-0 when facing elimination. In the final three wins against Vancouver, normally defensive-minded Minnesota outscored the Canucks 16-5.
“I really believe we have a better team than people give us credit for,” Walz said.
“I was just trying to get it on net,” Henrickson said. “There was a little screen and I just found a corner.”
Pascal Dupuis, who missed the last game with an ankle injury, made it 4-2 with 2:33 left. He connected on a power play after Todd Bertuzzi was sent off for pushing Minnesota defenseman Andrei Zyuzin into goalie Dwayne Roloson.
Mattias Ohlund and Bertuzzi scored 61 seconds apart in the second period to give the Canucks a 2-0 lead. But the Wild, as they have throughout their playoff run, took advantage of a good break to get back in the game.
Marek Malik’s clearing attempt hit Sergei Zholtok’s stick behind the Vancouver net, and the puck bounced over the net. Dupuis batted it out of the air on the other side for his first goal of the game.
“It was big and I got lucky,” Dupuis said.
For the third straight game the Canucks blitzed Minnesota, outshooting the Wild 12-6, and delivering several big body checks in the first period. But for the third straight game the Canucks couldn’t put an early goal past Roloson.
Ohlund finally scored with a low slap shot from the top of the left circle that beat a screened Roloson at 11:29 of the second. Bertuzzi scored his only goal of the second round on a breakaway during the next shift.
Henrik Sedin’s long pass bounced off a Wild stick at center ice and straight to Bertuzzi behind the Minnesota defense. Bertuzzi, who had 46 regular-season goals, skated in and roofed a backhand over Roloson’s glove for his second goal in 14 playoff games.
But Dupuis took advantage of the first break, and Walz tied it on another one in the third.
Antti Laaksonen’s centering pass bounced off a skate in the crease, and straight to Walz, who caught Cloutier out of position playing the pass.
“Sometimes it doesn’t work out and you just have to look at the series and learn from it,” Crawford said. “As bitter as the pill is you hope that somewhere down the line you get some good out of it.”
Cloutier finished with 12 saves.
Minnesota received the only two power plays in the game that was played justone day after the Wild beat the Canucks at home in Game 6.
It was the first time the Canucks lost a series in which they led 3-1. They were 5-0. … The only team to win more games when facing elimination were the 1975 New York Islanders, who won eight times. … The Canucks played their second straight game without D Sami Salo, who spent Wednesday night in a Vancouver hospital because of a foot infection. … Canucks rookie C BrandonReid replaced Trevor Letowski in the lineup.