Game 7 - April 22, 2003, Sergei Zholtok steals the puck and streaks through the neutral zone at the Pepsi Center as two Avalanche defenders are pinching in on him. As he crosses into the Av's zone he drops the puck to Andrew Brunette and then, well you know the rest...
Zholtok's time in Minnesota was not terribly long, playing 228 games including 18 playoff games through nearly 2 ¾ seasons before he, along with Brad Bombardir were traded to the Nashville Predators on March 5, 2004. In his time in Minnesota he scored 48 goals and notched 62 assists for 110 points and left us with memories to last a lifetime, including being the driving force behind "The Goal".
Nine years ago today, Sergei Zholtok was playing in Belarus for his Latvian team HK Riga 2000 along with now Wild Assistant Coach Darby Hendrickson, Late in the game he wasn't feeling well and left the bench, Zholtok collapsed and died in Darby's arms in the locker room. Both Sergei and Darby were playing in Europe due to the 2004-2005 NHL lockout.
Zholtok suffered from Cardiac arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat. It is any number of a group of conditions affecting the electrical activity of the heart. Zholtok missed some time while with the Wild due to this condition. He hadn't know of his condition until he left a game in January, 2003. He spent a night in the hospital for observation and would miss 7 games after being diagnosed with arrhythmia.
Zholtok was a product of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, being selected by the Boston Bruins in the 2nd round with the 55th overall selection. In his 10-year NHL career he played for 6 different teams in 588 games, scoring 111 goals with 147 assists. During his career Zholtok was widely considered to be one of the best forwards to come out of Latvia.
Zholtok was one of my favorite players when he was with the Wild. Not only was his name fun to say, but he worked his butt off every night he was on the ice. His smile was infectious and the fans and players alike loved having him around. Bruno's goal in game 7 against the Avalanche was only made possible by Zholtok as he peeled away after dropping the puck off, taking a defender with him and leaving another out of position to make a meaningful play against the Wild's advance. It's hard to believe it has been 9 years since he left this world. He was just 31 years old at the time of his death. Zholtok is survived by his wife Anna and his two sons Edgar and Nikita.