Marian Gaborik scored a rare power-play goal and Niklas Backstrom made 28 saves to help the Wild avoid a sweep with a 4-1 victory over the Ducks in Game 4 on Tuesday night. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brian Rolston and Mark Parrish also scored for the Wild, who had been thoroughly dominated by Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and the defensive Ducks in the first three games of the series.
Minnesota still faces an incredibly daunting task. Only two teams in NHL history have come back from 3-0 deficits to advance in the playoffs, the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.
Game 5 is Thursday in Anaheim, Calif.
For at least one more game, the Wild can hope.
Trailing 1-0 after Pronger’s power-play goal just over six minutes into the second, the game changed about 10 minutes later with an act of desperation by Wild coach Jacques Lemaire.
He decided to put his top three scorers – Rolston, Gaborik and Pavol Demitra – on the same line, assembling a potent unit that accounted for 86 of the team’s 225 goals during the season.
That’s more than 38 per cent of the Wild’s total, a mark made more impressive by the 49 games missed between them.
Bouchard tied it with less than two minutes remaining in the second, and the Big Line took over in the third period.
The Wild entered the final period 1-for-17 on the power play in this series before Gaborik finally broke through.
After an Anaheim penalty, the puck trickled behind the net, and Demitra centred it. Ilya Bryzgalov made a blocker save, but couldn’t freeze the puck. Gaborik kept swatting at it and finally banged it home to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.
Six minutes later, the Big Line was on the move again, when Rolston grabbed a loose puck at along the boards to start a three-on-two. Demitra fed the puck back to him, and Bryzgalov didn’t stand a chance to get over to make the save.
That kind of room in front of Bryzgalov just wasn’t there in the first three games of the series, when the Ducks suffocated Minnesota’s high flyers and forced them to play dump and chase with little effect.
Bryzgalov entered the game 3-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average in these playoffs, but was pulled after Parrish tipped in a shot from the point to make it 4-1. He made 32 saves on 36 shots, but stopped only six of the nine shots he faced in the third.
As encouraging as the offensive outburst was for the Wild, their fans were more thrilled by the grit they showed in Game 4 after a lifeless effort in Game 3 left them on the brink of elimination.
The Wild showed Tuesday night that they’re not going down without a fight, literally.
After Parrish’s goal essentially sealed the game for Minnesota, Anaheim forward Corey Perry charged Minnesota defenceman Brent Burns.
The two grappled briefly before Burns levelled Perry with three straight overhand rights.
The game ended on a sour note, when two Ducks players took down Wild forward Adam Hall, touching off a fracas that had the sellout crowd chanting for Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard to retaliate.
Anaheim’s Brad May received a match penalty and a game misconduct for his role, teammate Shawn Thornton received a game misconduct.
One of the NHL’s toughest brawlers, Boogaard skated onto the ice and started jawing toward the Anaheim bench, but no fights ensued.
Notes: J.S. Giguere saw his first action in goal since March 31 and made four saves. … Anaheim D Francois Beauchemin did not dress after taking a puck to the face late in Game 3 on Sunday. “He didn’t feel very well today,” coach Randy Carlyle said. … Boogaard was back on the ice after missing Game 3 with an illness.