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Wild's Game Plan Has Been Pointless

Going to a bigger lineup doesn't help against Giguere, but players say they will not give up and will play their best game on Friday.

May 15, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Welcome to the four stages of playoff misery -- denial, anger, grief and acceptance.

The Minnesota Wild has managed to travel through the first two phases in only three games of the Western Conference finals against the Mighty Ducks.

After Wednesday night's 4-0 loss in Game 3 at the Arrowhead Pond, Minnesota is speeding toward the final two stages at an uncommonly swift pace.

Denial was left behind in St. Paul, Minn.

No longer were the Wild players saying they were not frustrated by the Ducks, and most prominently, their spectacular goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. There were no more comments about the size of his pads being, well, oversized.

Anger came through in Game 3, especially in the third period when the final 20 minutes were reduced to garbage time with the Ducks leading by four goals.

The Wild, which featured a bigger, more physical lineup Wednesday, got chippy, as they like to say around the NHL. They started slashing, roughing and cross-checking, racking up a few minor penalties.

"A clown show," Duck Coach Mike Babcock called the final, ragged stretch.

Which brings us to the paragraph always trotted out at this juncture when a series is so one-sided: Only two teams have overcome 3-0 deficits to win a Stanley Cup playoff series -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.

On the surface, the Wild would seem excellent candidates to make a serious run at overcoming such a deficit. After all, the Wild became the first team in NHL history to twice recover from 3-1 series deficits in the playoffs, first rallying against Colorado in the opening round and then against Vancouver in the Western Conference semifinals.

Giguere, however, makes such a recovery look nearly impossible. Minnesota has had 98 shots on goal in three games and has yet to score.

Not even once.

Previously, the fewest goals scored in a four-game series: two. That has happened twice, and the most recent time was in 1952 in the Stanley Cup finals when Detroit outscored Montreal, 11-2.

Demoralizing?

"I'd lie to you if I said it wasn't," Wild left wing Andrew Brunette said.

"Obviously, we're shrugging our shoulders and we shouldn't be. But he [Giguere] made some pretty good saves. I thought the chances were there. They were there in the first game. Their whole team is doing an unbelievable job out there in front of the net.

"We've just got to win one game. There's no quit in us. There never was and there never will be. We'll regroup and get excited about it and play our best game the next game. We've just got to worry about one game."

That may be it for the season if the current trend continues.

Minnesota Coach Jacques Lemaire made some changes, going with a bigger lineup. Left wing Matt Johnson returned, and defenseman Jason Marshall made his first appearance of the series. Lemaire pulled starting goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who gave up three goals on 16 shots and replaced him with Manny Fernandez in the second period.

"They outplayed us tonight," Marshall said. "We should have dug a little deeper."

Later, he was more succinct.

"We've got to get our you-know-what's together," Marshall said.

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