Sharks finish off Avs in six games
DENVER (AP) - The San Jose Sharks made sure the Colorado Avalanche
didn't have a chance to break their hearts again.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 28 shots, and San Jose scored three goals in
the second period to help the Sharks finally finish off the Avalanche
3-1 Tuesday night and reach the conference finals for the first time
in their 13-year history.
San Jose had lost the last four times it had a chance to close
Colorado out, including the final two games in 2002.
``I've been waiting 10 years to beat that team, and we finally did
it,'' San Jose's Mike Rathje said.
San Jose lost to Colorado in the playoffs twice in the past five
years and seemed headed toward more disappointment after the
Avalanche won consecutive overtime games.
Not wanting the series to be extended to Game 7, the Sharks swarmed
Colorado from the start and got goals from Vincent Damphousse, Marcel
Goc and Jonathan Cheechoo in an 11-minute span of the second period
to close out the series in six games.
``It's a pretty fun roll,'' said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, whose team
will face the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference finals. ``For
a while there it got to be a roller coaster, but I'm really proud of
our team. To all the Sharks fans, hoist one up for our boys tonight,
because it was quite an effort out there.''
The Avalanche won Games 4 and 5 in overtime to put themselves in
position to become the third team in NHL history to win a series
after trailing 3-0. They just fell short.
Colorado was sluggish early and couldn't beat Nabokov again after
Milan Hejduk scored late in the second period for a disappointing end
to a season that began with hopes of a third Stanley Cup title.
``We had an unbelievable lineup and it's too bad it didn't work
out,'' Colorado's Peter Forsberg said. ``We didn't play good enough
and they beat us.''
After scoring two goals in three games, San Jose got back to the puck-
control style that was so effective in the first two games of the
series. The Sharks comfortably set up in Colorado's zone for long
stretches to create scoring chances and force the Avalanche to react.
Colorado certainly helped with its sluggishness, spending most of the
first period chipping pucks weakly out of its own end and managing
just two shots.
``We played the perfect first period,'' Damphousse said. ``Although
the score was 0-0, we thought we wore them down and played the style
we wanted to play. It was just a matter of time when we cracked their
He was right.
Damphousse broke through 1:34 into the second period with his fifth
goal of the series, lifting a shot over David Aebischer's right
shoulder after Niko Dimitrakos' shot from the side bounced through
Goc made it 2-0 just over seven minutes later, tipping Curtis Brown's
shot past Aebischer's stick side.
Cheechoo added to the lead just three minutes later when he kept the
puck on a two-on-one, deked Paul Kariya to the ice and beat Aebischer
with a wrist shot a few seconds after San Jose killed off a penalty.
``I think that the problem is that when we get down one goal or so,
we open up a little bit too much and too early,'' Aebischer said.
``That's when they got the next goals. It's tough to come back from 3-
0 against that team.''
Hejduk gave Colorado some hope with 2:26 left in the period, bouncing
a shot off Nabokov's mask from the left circle with Colorado on a two-
The Avalanche turned up the pressure in the third period, but Nabokov
was there each time. He stopped nine shots in the period to finish
the series with a 1.01 goals-against average.
``Any time you beat Colorado, it's huge,'' Nabokov said. ``They have
so much over there. You've accomplished something when you beat them
Forsberg couldn't get much going in what might have been his final
He was physical, as usual, but couldn't find room to create like he
did in the previous two games. He also lost control of the puck a few
times, and most of his usually crisp passes seemed to just miss.
With his contract up and an NHL lockout possible, Forsberg could be
headed home to Sweden to finish his hockey career.
``Right now I really don't want to think about it,'' Forsberg said.
``We'll see what happens over the summer. I'll just sit back and
think about it later on.''
Notes: Goc's goal was the first by a San Jose player other than
Damphousse since Wayne Primeau scored an empty-netter in the closing
seconds of Game 2. ... Kariya was back after missing the first 10
playoff games with a sprained ankle, but Colorado was without D Rob
Blake (upper body) and LW Alex Tanguay (lower body). Kariya had an
assist on Hejduk's goal. ... Colorado lost in the conference
semifinals for the first time (6-1).