The Minnesota Wild used a recipe of confidence, speed, discipline and a never-say-die attitude to eliminate the Vancouver Canucks from the Stanley Cup playoffs on Thursday.
The Wild erased a two-goal deficit, answering back with four markers of their own, en route to a 4-2 win in Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal at GM Place.
Minnesota native Darby Hendrickson scored the go-ahead marker at 14:48 of the final frame to lift the Wild to victory. Hendrickson, a former Canuck, beat Vancouver netminder Dan Cloutier with a blast from the top of the faceoff circle.
"I was just trying to get it on the net," said Hendrickson. "There was a bit of screen and I just put it in the corner."
The sixth-ranked Wild now move on to face another remarkable story in the Western Conference final -- the giant-killing Anaheim Mighty Ducks. The best-of-seven set begins Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Minnesota also made the record books with Thursday's victory, becoming the only club in NHL history to rebound from a pair of 3-1 series deficits in the same post-season. The Wild are also a perfect 6-0 when facing elimination in the playoffs.
Pascal Dupuis tallied twice and Wes Walz added a single for the Wild in Game 7. Mattias Ohlund and Todd Bertuzzi replied for Vancouver.
The Canucks took a 2-0 lead midway through the second period, but in true Wild fashion, Minnesota kept it close and pounced when opportunities arose.
"We had a lot more composure on our bench and in our dressing room than we did in the Colorado series," Walz told Hockey Night in Canada. "It was a lot more controlled."
Dupuis, who scored an insurance power-play marker with 2:33 remaining in the third, praised his squad's ability to work as a team.
"We played great as a team again tonight," said Dupuis. "I think we can get respect with everything we've done. I hope so. I hope so."
In the Vancouver dressing room, Canuck players were more disappointed about losing a 3-1 series advantage than their effort on Thursday.
"This is the hardest part for me," said forward Trent Klatt. "Nothing against the Wild because they are a great hockey team, but just the way it happened. Losing three straight, it's very difficult right now."
Vancouver centre Brendan Morrison said he was impressed with the Wild's resolve.
"They don't go away," said Morrison. "They hang around, hang around until they get a chance to win."
For the second straight game, the Canucks came out strong in the opening frame, outshooting the Wild 12-6.
The Canucks finally got to Minnesota's Dwayne Roloson at the 11:29 mark of the second. Ohlund rifled a point shot, beating the Wild netminder through the legs. Jarkko Ruutu, who also drew an assist on the play, jumped in front of Roloson, appearing to obstruct his vision.
It was just the second time in the series that the Canucks managed to open the scoring.
Vancouver took a two-goal advantage just 61 seconds later. Bertuzzi took a Henrik Sedin feed at the Minnesota blueline and sprung free on a breakaway. The Vancouver power forward waited for Roloson to go down and flicked a backhand shot high, knocking the water bottle from its perch atop the goal.
The tally gave the Canucks their only two-goal lead of the series.
However, in true Wild style, it took just three minutes for Minnesota to answer back. Dupuis, who missed Wednesday's Game 6 with an ankle injury, scored on a bizarre play.
The puck deflected off Sergei Zholtok's stick from behind the net and wobbled through the air in front. Dupuis knocked the knuckleball out of the air, batting it behind Cloutier, who didn't appear to see the shot.
The Wild used their speed to tie the game 2-2 at 8:04 of the third. Walz notched his fifth goal of the series by faking out Cloutier with a pass that didn't happen
Cloutier was faked out on the play, sliding to take out a pass, leaving Walz a big section of the net to deposit the tying goal.
Hendrickson gave the Wild their first lead of the night with just 5:12 remaining in regulation, firing home a shot past Cloutier for his second marker in as many nights. He had just one goal during the entire regular season.
Dupuis sealed the 4-2 victory with his second of the night, a power-play goal with just 2:33 to play.
with files from Canadian Press