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Once upon a time, Canuck's trash talk helped Wild turn tide, make history

The 2003 version of the Wild remains the only team in NHL history to overcome two 3-1 series deficits in a single postseason

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

Only a few people know exactly what was said and what went down, but the story that seems to have gained almost mythic lore in Minnesota began with a 3-2 overtime victory for the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the 2003 Western Conference semifinals at Xcel Energy Center.

The three-year-old Wild, coming off an improbable first-round upset of the powerful Colorado Avalanche, had split the first two games in Vancouver, but returned to St. Paul and lost twice, and now faced a 3-1 series deficit for the second time in two playoff rounds. 

Canucks players had changed and were exiting the arena headed back to the St. Paul Hotel, a walk that brought them through Gate 1 of the arena and past the arena's ticket office. They would depart the following morning for Vancouver and an opportunity to close out the series on home ice three days later. 

As fans stood in line to purchase tickets to a potential Game 6 back in St. Paul, Canucks forward Todd Bertuzzi, whom local fans had quickly grown to despise, asked Wild fans what they were waiting in line for.

"This isn't coming back to Minnesota," Bertuzzi supposedly crowed. 

What exactly happened, or what was actually said remains up for debate. Perhaps it's all fabricated and Bertuzzi never said a word. Maybe it was a motivational tactic invented by then-Wild coach Jacques Lemaire.

Watch: Youtube Video

Whatever it was, it helped turn the tide in the series for Minnesota, which came storming back to win Game 5 in Vancouver 7-2. It followed with a 5-1 throttling of the Canucks at Xcel Energy Center in Game 6 before a come-from-behind 4-2 win in Game 7 at GM Place.

The Wild and Canucks will renew their once intense rivalry when the clubs begin a best-of-5 Western Conference qualifying series on Sunday night at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

The 2003 Wild remains the first and only team in NHL history to recover from two 3-1 series deficits in one playoff run, a footnote in history that might not have happened if not for Bertuzzi's supposed loose lips. 

"We caught wind of it," said former Wild forward Wes Walz. "Today on Twitter, that would be everywhere. I don't know how it got back to us, but it did. It'd be interesting to see how it got back to us. 

"Not that we needed any motivation, but that fueled us, it really did. I don't care what anybody says, nobody likes to be slighted like that.

"Especially him, he had a big mouth, he wouldn't shut up on the ice."

The jab by Bertuzzi was the kind of thing that Lemaire instructed his club to avoid at all costs. With a team constructed largely of other teams' castoffs, the Wild relished the underdog role it embraced as that playoff run continued.

A round earlier, after Richard Park won Game 6 against Colorado with an overtime goal, Lemaire entered the Wild dressing room and pleaded with players to keep things as professional as possible with the media. 

No trash talking. No funny lines. No getting cute. 

In addition to the five future Hall-of-Famers Colorado had on its roster, Lemaire didn't want the Avalanche to have any bulletin board material that might motivate a more talented group.

While the Canucks didn't boast the kind of talent Colorado did, Vancouver was -- on paper, anyway -- the far superior club. It proved it on the ice early in that series, but it was an off-ice mishap that ended up turning that around.

"It gave us a lot of juice when Bertuzzi did that," Walz said. "That fueled us for sure."

 

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