ST. PAUL -- A night after losing to the Colorado Avalanche to fall behind 3-1 in their first-round playoff series, Minnesota general manager Doug Risebrough and coach Jacques Lemaire gathered their players for a little pep talk.
"It was just, 'Hey guys, stick together. It's our group, it's our little family here. Stay with what got us here,"' center Jim Dowd recalled.
"Never quit, that was the bottom line right there."
Thursday, April 24
Tampa Bay at New Jersey, 6 p.m.
Anaheim at Dallas, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, April 25
Philadelphia at Ottawa, 6 p.m.
Minnesota at Vancouver, 9:30 p.m.
The Wild never did, and pulled yet another surprise on the rest of the NHL by winning three straight games to knock off the powerful Avalanche. They became just the 17th team in league history to take a playoff series after trailing 3-1.
When they open against Vancouver on Friday, the Wild will almost certainly feel less pressure than any other team in the playoffs. No one, not even their coach, expected them to go this far.
"When you're an underdog, you have no pressure," Dowd said. "You're not supposed to win, you're not supposed to do it. So we just feed off that."
The Wild have been the overachievers of the NHL this season by far.
In training camp before the franchise's third season, Risebrough and Lemaire talked simply of working hard and improving as a team.
The results came quickly.
After going through two straight losing seasons, the third-year Wild got off to a 8-1-2 start and held the league's best record at point early in the season. Their hot start helped them maintain a winning record throughout the year.
Stretching Colorado, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, to seven games was remarkable. And winning Game 7 on Andrew Brunette's overtime goal was plain unbelievable; Lemaire said when Brunette scored, he thought one of his assistants was going to faint.
"The first thing that came to my mind ... Is this possible? Is this true?" Lemaire said.
"It was hard to believe."
A day after the victory, the Wild still seemed dazed.
"To beat that kind of team ... I still couldn't believe it, I had to pinch myself," right wing Marian Gaborik said.
Said defensman Matt Johnson: "It was almost like you want to give that puck a double take and make sure it's in the net."
When the Avalanche led the series 3-1, Lemaire said he'd be happy if his young team won just one more game before being eliminated.
"We were out, we were going nowhere," Lemaire said. "It would've been easy for them to say, 'Hey, this is a good team on the other side, we can't beat them. We'll pack it and go play golf.' But that's not what they did."
While Lemaire was overjoyed at his team's resiliency, he wasn't particularly happy with his players' performance in Game 7.
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