ST. PAUL -- Manny Fernandez finally got into the mix Wednesday night after Colorado slipped two quick goals past Dwayne Roloson, who was bothered by a sore groin.
Fernandez stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced in the Wild's 3-1 loss.
Coach Jacques Lemaire sent Fernandez, who rotated with Roloson throughout the season, into the game with 10:42 left in the first period to loud cheers from the crowd.
The Wild's goalie situation has been one of the hottest topics surrounding the team ever since it clinched its first-ever playoff berth last month. It's also been one of the most closely guarded secrets by the coaches.
"Before the series started, they got the goalies in the corner and gave the example that if it was Dallas, I'd be starting," Fernandez said. "I took it for granted that if it wouldn't be them, then Roly would start and obviously Roly was rock solid in the first two games."
Fernandez's best stop came in the second period when Bates Battaglia picked up a rebound and tried to flip the puck into the net. But Fernandez snatched the puck out of the air with his glove and fell backward, drawing a loud ovation.
Fernandez hadn't played since April 3 at Toronto.
"I've taken it pretty good, I think, and stayed focused on the goal ahead, which is to get through Colorado."
Fernandez played in his third career playoff game. He's 0-0 lifetime, playing 1:33 and 17:00, respectively, in his previous two games -- both with Dallas.
"Once I left Dallas, I thought the next time we get into the playoffs, I'd be the guy. It's not easy, but you've got to look at the big picture and see this is a team game."
Roloson stopped only two of the four shots he faced in 9:18.
Lemaire said he considered starting Fernandez in Game 2, but went with Roloson because of his solid performance in Game 1.
Asked why he didn't start Fernandez for Wednesday night's game, Lemaire said: "You put a lot of pressure on the goalie who hadn't played a game. He's watching, it's been four games. Roly was doing great, so that's the main reason why."
ENOUGH ALREADY!: Lemaire was half joking with reporters after the morning skate when he said he was tired of being hounded about which goalie he would start during the series.
"You go to bed, you wake up, more questions!" Lemaire said.
So anyway coach, who's starting tonight?
"If it's not Roly, it'll be Manny. ... Yes! You can print that."
YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN: It was a bittersweet homecoming for Colorado right wing Dan Hinote.
Hinote, an Elk River native, scored the Avs' final goal in the third period, bringing a few boos from the disappointed Wild fans.
"You don't want to get booed, but it happens quite often," Hinote said. "But what are you going to do?"
Left alone to the right of the net, Hinote tapped in a rebound past Fernandez to put Colorado up 3-1.
"My family's here, my friends, you know. People you want to make proud for helping to get you where you are today, so hopefully I did that."
BILLY'S BACK: Wild right wing Bill Muckalt saw his first playoff action this series after missing 73 games this season with an injured shoulder.
He played 13:20 and didn't attempt a shot, but Lemaire was pleased with what he saw.
"He brought energy. He was on the puck. He's a good skater. We need his speed," the coach said."
It's been a frustrating year for Muckalt, a fifth-year NHL veteran who came to Minnesota looking for a new start after going scoreless last season with Ottawa. He got off to a quick start, scoring five goals in six games before he was injured Oct. 22 against Calgary.
MARSHALL'S SWITCH: Minnesota's Jason Marshall, usually a forward, played defense again on Wednesday night, partnering with Nick Schultz.
The Wild have been trying various combinations in the absence of Brad Bombardir, the team's best defenseman.
"It's definitely a different mindset," Marshall said. "I like it. It's nice to be back there."
GABBY'S GOAL: Marian Gaborik finally gave the Minnesota fans something to celebrate by scoring the Wild's first-ever playoff goal at Xcel Energy Center.
Gaborik's slap shot from the left circle zipped underneath a Colorado defender's glove and between the pads of Patrick Roy.
"It was good for the fans," Lemaire said. "They had been waiting for a while."
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