The old man of the Minnesota Wild
came up biggest when his young team needed him. Keith Carney, at 38 the oldest player on the team, scored on a slap shot 1:14 into overtime Friday night to give the Wild a series-tying 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche
Carney matched his season total for goals when he picked up a loose puck that kicked out toward the left point and blasted a slap shot that hit the toe of Colorado defenseman Ruslan Salei and deflected past a helpless Jose Theodore. The goal set off an eruption by 19,360 towel-waving Wild fans, who feared their team would be heading to Denver for Game 3 on Monday night down 0-2. Instead, the series is tied after the teams split 3-2 overtime decisions at the Xcel Energy Center.
“I just tried to put it on the net and hope for the best,” said Carney, who had one goal in 61 regular-season games and hadn’t scored a playoff goal since 1999, when he played for the Phoenix Coyotes.
There was nothing Theodore could do.
''They just threw the puck at the net. They got a shot off a couple of skates and it went in,” he said. “I wouldn't say it's bad luck. When you throw pucks at the net, that's what happens. We saw that (Wednesday) night in our overtime goal. In overtime, you just throw everything at the net.''
The Wild and their fans thought they had won the game with 1:51 remaining in regulation when Mikko Koivu knocked a puck out of the air outside the Colorado blue line, skated into the zone and beat Theodore with a 40-foot slap shot.
But Minnesota defenseman Kim Johnsson was called for hooking with 1:09 to go, and with Theodore on the bench for an extra attacker, Milan Hejduk tied the game on a deflection with 43.8 seconds remaining — taking all the air out of the crowd.
''It was tough because we thought we had the game won there in the third, a questionable call on the penalty,” Carney said. “But we just talked about refocusing and not letting that beat us — continuing to play our game and do the right things on the ice. We felt if we did that then we'd get the right result.''
The Wild needed the win after losing the opener in overtime, but for the second straight game, they were scoreless after 40 minutes. Colorado led 1-0 going into the third period on Peter Forsberg’s goal at 17:06 of the first period.
But as they had in the opener, the Wild came out revved-up in the third period and quickly tied the game. Pavol Demitra beat Theodore with a screened power-play slap shot just 1:37 into the third period.
Carney is one of the few Wild players with significant playoff experience — he’s played 86 games and was a key member of the Anaheim team that went to the 2003 Final. He and fellow 38-year-old Sean Hill have had to play more minutes due to injuries that have sidelined Kurtis Foster and Jeff Schultz.
''It's great,'' Johnsson said of Carney’s unlikely heroics. ”He works really, really hard every single game, and seeing him get that, it's just great.''
Games 3 and 4 are on Monday and Tuesday at the Pepsi Center, but Colorado captain Joe Sakic is playing down the benefits of home ice — even though the Avs were third in the NHL with 27 home wins.
“We’re going home 1-1, but in our league, home ice isn’t much of an advantage,” he said. “They’re not going to care about playing on the road.”
Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville wasn’t unhappy about heading home with a split, but admitted he would have liked to win both games.
“You always say you’re satisfied with a split,” he said. “But when you win the first one, you’d love to win the second.”
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media were used in this report.