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
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
"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
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."
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
Kariya had an assist on Hejduk's goal. ... Colorado lost in the
conference semifinals for the first time (6-1).