<
>

Willsie scores his first goal of the season

4/12/2003

DENVER (AP) -- Brian Willsie is wild about Minnesota and, in
particular, goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

Willsie scored his first goal of the season and first career
playoff goal, and Patrick Roy made 24 saves as the Colorado
Avalanche beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 Saturday to square their
first-round series 1-1.

The best-of-seven series shifts to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4
on Monday and Wednesday.

Of Willsie's eight career goals, five have come off Roloson.

"I don't really know why," Willsie said. "I've been fortunate
against him."

Willsie scored at 5:49 of the third after Dan Hinote won a
faceoff in the right circle. Hinote skated toward the goal, took
Rob Blake's pass and made a blind pass back to Willsie in the slot.

Willsie's goal gave Colorado a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead,
but Andrew Brunette made it close on a power-play goal with 35.6
seconds left.

Minutes in, Willsie had a rare scoring chance but was stopped on
a breakaway.

"I was kind of disappointed on the breakaway," Willsie said.
"He made a great save. I was hoping to get another chance and
lucky that I did.

"I wanted to find the puck coming through and get it away as
quick as I could. There was a hole on the blocker side."

Willsie played in only 12 games for the Avalanche this season,
getting one assist. Promoted to Colorado five times this season
from Hershey, he spent so much time in the minor leagues that he
led the Bears in goals, points, shots and game-winning goals.

Now he has an NHL playoff game-winner.

"It was exciting to get the first playoff goal out of the way,
and it was even more exciting that it was the game-winner, too,"
said Willsie.

Roloson had 25 saves for the Wild, who won the opener 4-2.

"We got a split and that's what you try to do on the road in
the playoffs," Roloson said. "Now we are going back to our
building, and hopefully we can do well there."

Wild center Wes Walz said the series switch to Minnesota "is
going to be exciting for our fans. They've waited a long time for a
playoff game."

Minnesota was called for nine penalties.

"It's kind of tough when you're playing against a top team and
you've got to give penalties all the time," Wild coach Jacques
Lemaire said. "In general, I'm happy with the way we played. Rolly
played really well. I can't ask better."

Minnesota scored on 2 of 3 power-play opportunities in the
opener but were 1-for-5 Saturday.

"Today we did a much better job of killing penalties,"
Avalanche coach Tony Granato said.

Milan Hejduk had a goal and an assist for Colorado, and Rob
Blake had two assists. Darby Hendrickson had two assists for the
Wild.

The Avalanche, facing a team that plays a smothering defense
once it gets the lead, was hoping for an early advantage, and got
it. Minnesota is 21-0-1 when leading after one period this season
and 31-0-1 when ahead after two.

Goals by Hejduk and Greg de Vries sparked Colorado to a 2-1 lead
in the first period, during which it outshot the Wild 13-4.

Hejduk scored a power-play goal on a 4-on-3 situation at 4:22.
Roloson stopped Blake's shot from the point, and Derek Morris
tipped the rebound to Hejduk, who scored into an open net.

Minnesota, a 3-year-old team playing its first playoff series,
scored on its first shot at 8:09. Colorado's Martin Skoula turned
the puck over along the left boards, and Walz beat Roy on a wrister
from the left circle.

The Avalanche went ahead on a 4-on-4 at 14:41 when de Vries took
a pass from Peter Forsberg in the slot.

There was no scoring in an energetic second period. Roy had two
superb glove saves, one on Antti Laaksonen's breakaway on a
short-handed attempt, the other on Jeremy Stevenson's redirection
of Andrei Zyuzin's long shot.

Earlier in the period, Roy stopped four shots on a Wild power
play.

Minnesota's Richard Park hit the far post on a breakaway early
in the third.

After Colorado's Derek Morris went off for cross-checking at
18:38, Minnesota got another scoring chance. Brunette tipped in a
rebound of Sergei Zholtok's shot just seconds after Roloson left
the ice.

Game notes
Roloson got the start over Manny Fernandez after making 39
saves in the opener. ... Including losses in the final two games of
the conference finals to Detroit last year, Colorado had dropped
three consecutive playoff games by a combined score of 13-2. ...
Colorado forward Mike Keane, scratched from the opener because of
stiffness and spasms in his back, played Game 2. ... Colorado is
6-1 in the second game of a playoff series after losing the opener.

Comments