SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Just when it seemed Game 1 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal was headed for overtime, the Colorado Avalanche were the recipients of a lucky bounce that every team needs at this time of year.
Chris Stewart's shot from the right corner went off the left skate blade of San Jose Sharks captain Rob Blake and past Evgeni Nabokov with 49.3 seconds remaining in regulation as the Avs took a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven series with a 2-1 victory at HP Pavilion on Wednesday night.
"A typical playoff goal … just throw it at the net and good things happen," said Stewart, who had 28 goals for Colorado during the regular season. "(Paul) Stastny cycled to me and I saw (T.J.) Galiardi out front in traffic. I just tried to throw it out front and hoped for the best."
"One lucky bounce and we found ourselves short," said Nabokov, who made 28 saves. "That's how the goals are scored. They go into the blue paint and they put the puck there. That's what playoffs are all about."
The teams will meet again in Game 2 on Friday night, when the top-seeded Sharks -- who have lost their last four series openers, all on home ice -- will try to avoid going down 0-2 before the series shifts to Denver. Craig Anderson stopped 25 shots for the No. 8 Avalanche in his first NHL playoff game.
"Not a lot of people are giving us a chance in this series," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "The pressure is on them. I thought we played to our identity tonight right from the drop of the puck. I liked our composure. The first game's an important game, but let's not kid ourselves. We've still got a long way to go."
John-Michael Liles scored the first goal of the series on the power play at 12:38 of the second period. After Blake went off for hooking Paul Stastny, Liles took a pass from Matt Duchene and blasted a slap shot from the point that found its way through a crowd and past Nabokov as the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead.
Colorado outshot the Sharks 12-3 in the second and took the one-goal lead into the third period.
"If we could eliminate that 20 minutes and play the way we did in the first and the third, it would have given ourselves more of an opportunity to be successful," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "We talked about overcoming and the need to overcome. We knew they were going to be tough. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy or a simple series. They're a very good team and they work very hard. Our backs aren't up against the wall. We have to play a little bit better, and we look forward to that on Friday."
The Sharks evened things up when Ryane Clowe scored with 12:01 remaining in regulation. With the teams at even strength, Clowe outfought from Liles for the puck in the corner to the right of Anderson, came out and fired a turnaround shot from the right-wing boards that went through a screen and into the net to make it 1-1.
"They got a pretty gritty goal there," Anderson said. "It gave them some momentum and got the crowd back in it. We just found a way. We stuck to our program. We didn't change. That's the big thing with our team. We learned throughout the year that we've just got to stick to our systems."
Devin Setoguchi had San Jose's best chances during a scoreless first period. After being denied on a pair of back-to-back saves by Anderson early in the period, Setoguchi missed an open net with about two minutes to go when his backhander went wide. The Sharks outshot Colorado 12-11.
Stewart said the Avs have no doubt they can win a series that few people gave them a chance in.
"History's proven that the eighth seed can come in and win," Stewart said. "We hope to do it again (on Friday). Everyone knows all the pressure is on them, but we're just worried about ourselves. Everyone had us behind the 8-ball all year. This shows this team's for real."
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
Shift of the game: Everyone else may have been under the assumption that the game was going to require an extra session, but Colorado's trio of Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart and T.J. Galiardi certainly weren't interested. Their solid work down low allowed Stewart the opportunity to throw one at the net in the final minute of regulation, and it ended up going in off Rob Blake's skate and into the net.