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Avs don’t resemble playoff neophytes in opener

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Avs don’t resemble playoff neophytes in opener
Although they had 14 players making their postseason debuts on Wednesday, the Colorado Avalanche looked battle-tested as they squeaked out a key 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in their playoff opener.
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Fourteen members of the Colorado Avalanche entered Wednesday night's action having never appeared in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.
 
It didn't show.
 
Despite the tremendous amount of youth and inexperience, the Avs did what they've been doing all season long, as they defied the odds and handed the top-seeded San Jose Sharks a 2-1 loss in Game 1 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal at HP Pavilion.
 
Chris Stewart -- one of those aforementioned 14 players who made his postseason debut in this showdown -- scored the game-winner with just 49.3 seconds remaining, as his shot from the right boards went off the skate blade of Sharks captain Rob Blake and past goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
 
The goal gave the Avalanche -- who finished eighth in the West -- a 1-0 lead in this series, which resumes at HP Pavilion on Friday night.
 
"For all the guys that didn't have any playoff games before tonight, they played with a lot of composure," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "For such a young team, we did a great job of staying composed for the most part. We stuck to the game plan."
 
That especially showed in the second period, when the Avalanche did a remarkable job of shutting down a San Jose offense that scored 264 goals during the regular season. After allowing 12 shots in the opening 20 minutes, the Avs surrendered only three in the second, making life easy on goalie Craig Anderson, who also appeared in his first NHL playoff game on Wednesday night.
 
"We played well defensively, but I think it was more so what we did offensively," Sacco said of the second period. "I think it allowed us not to spend much time in our own end. We were really conscious of making sure not to turn the puck over in the neutral zone that period. We were able to spend time in the offensive zone and we did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone for the most part."
 
Even when Ryane Clowe tied the game for San Jose at 7:59 of the third period -- a shot that also came from near the boards -- Sacco's club didn't get rattled. Instead, it kept plugging away and avoided overtime when Stewart's what-the-heck approach in the final minute ended up giving a Colorado a 1-0 series lead.
 
"We're young, but we've got a bunch of guys in this dressing room who want to win," said Stewart, who was selected in the first round (No. 18) by the Avs in 2006. "There's no time like the present. (But) we put this one behind us and get ready for Friday."
 
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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