PLAYOFFS
SJ Wins series 4-2
43-21-6, 19-13-4 away
3
123T
SJ0303
COL0101
40-22-7, 19-14-2 home
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Nabokov stops 28 as San Jose nets franchise first

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.

Sharks' Nabokov finished the second-round series with a 1.01 goals-against average.
Sharks' Nabokov finished the second-round series with a 1.01 goals-against average.

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 focus."

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 the crease.

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-man advantage.

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 anywhere."

Forsberg couldn't get much going in what might have been his

final NHL game.

He was physical, as usual, but couldn't find room to create the way

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."

Game 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).