The latest disappearing act came in Thursday night's 5-0 Game 5 rout at the hands of the Sharks at HP Pavilion. The loss put the Avalanche into a 3-2 hole in the series heading into a win-or-go-home sixth game Saturday night at the Pepsi Center.
"I feel we got what we deserved tonight," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We didn't play well for 60 minutes."
The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 37-28, but those numbers are deceptive -- the total was 29-11 after 40 minutes. Colorado seldom challenged Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who recorded his seventh career playoff shutout, until the outcome was no longer in doubt.
The most pressure Nabokov felt in the first two periods came late in the second when 6-foot-3, 240-pound teammate Douglas Murray fell on him after being cross-checked by Cody McLeod.
"You've got to put more pucks at the net," forward Darcy Tucker said in the Avalanche's silent and gloomy locker room. "We passed up a lot of opportunities. Right at the start of the second period we had some odd-man rushes and we didn't put the puck at the net."
To some extent, Colorado's dry spell is understandable. After all, center Peter Mueller has been sidelined since late in the regular season with a concussion, and right wing Milan Hejduk hasn't played since he suffered an upper-body injury in Game 3 against the Sharks. Neither has skated since being hurt.
Still, the drought is reaching dangerous proportions. Since taking a 5-4 lead late in the third period of Game 2 last week, Colorado has scored only two goals in the last 211 minutes, 34 seconds -- and one of those came as the result of the bizarre miscue by Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle in overtime of Game 3.
"I don't think we played well in the second half of the second period," Sacco said, referring to the stretch during which the Sharks put the game away with their first three goals Thursday night. "They wore us down. We got caught on some long shifts in our zone, and we weren't able to change."
Sacco's analysis is that his team isn't losing games because of its invisible play in the attacking zone. He said the problem is between the blue lines.
"We've got to play with energy," he said. "To do that, you've got to look after the puck in the neutral zone. It's how we look after the puck. We didn't do that consistently enough."
Center Matt Hendricks agreed.
"The energy wasn't there," he said. "We just need to play the game better. We had our points on the board. We just didn't stick to them."
The Sharks got two goals from rookie Logan Couture and one apiece from Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Dwight Helminen. Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson was given the rest of the night off midway through the third period after the Sharks took a 4-0 lead.
By then, the focus had shifted to Game 6.
"You've got to put more pucks at the net. We passed up a lot of opportunities. Right at the start of the second period we had some odd-man rushes and we didn't put the puck at the net."
-- Darcy Tucker
Added Tucker: "A lot of goals, you throw the puck in front of the net and get bounces and rebounds. We've got to find ways to generate offense. The No. 1 way to do that is to put pucks at the net."
The Avalanche may not be shooting enough, but Colorado has been taking the lion's share of penalties in the series. The Sharks have had 26 power plays in the first five games, precisely twice as many as the Avalanche. They were 2-for-7 Thursday; the Avs were 0-for-3.
Sacco halfheartedly questioned the discrepancy in calls but acknowledged that a big reason for it is that the Sharks have been the aggressors for most of the series. He also refused to accept that some of his players might be running out of gas.
"This is playoff hockey," he said. "You shouldn't be tired. You should be reenergized."
The Avs must find a way to reinvigorate themselves on Saturday night -- because if they don't, they'll have all summer to rest.