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Avs Clinch No. 6 Seed with Victory

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche

Heading into the overtime session deadlocked at 3-3 with the Minnesota Wild Sunday afternoon at Pepsi Center, the Colorado Avalanche already knew it had accomplished what it needed to by securing one point.

Winning the game by a 4-3 count in a shootout was icing on the cake.

Following the Calgary Flames’ win over the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night, the Avs needed to record only one point Sunday against the Wild to secure the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

With the Avs trailing in the third period, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk made sure that would happen, notching a power-play goal apiece.

Sakic’s goal at 5:48 of the third frame tied the game at 2-2. With the Avs on the power play, Peter Forsberg sent a pass from behind the goal line to the left faceoff dot, where Sakic grabbed it and picked the corner with a wrist shot.

Hejduk then added a power-play goal of his own at the 9:02 mark to give the Avs a 3-2 advantage, but Brian Rolston scored on the rebound of a Petteri Nummelin shot at 16:39 to send the game to overtime.

After a scoreless extra session, Wojtek Wolski and Sakic each made good on their shootout attempts, while Jose Theodore stopped both Nummelin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard to seal the win.

“We’ve got a lot of experience in here,” said Sakic. “Everybody has to pick it up, playoffs are a different level. And we are going to have to get there. We just wanted to play well and play hard and wanted to win the hockey game.”

Colorado’s reward for Sunday’s victory?

A series with this same Minnesota Wild squad in the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“For us the playoffs started two or three months ago and you just have to keep doing the same thing. I think in the playoffs, everybody is going to have to step it up,” said Theodore. “You can have the best season in the world and playoffs you have to step it up. That’s how the playoffs are played and that’s how you have to approach it to have success.”

Minnesota’s Mark Parrish scored the lone goal of the opening frame, netting a power-play goal to give the Wild a 1-0 advantage heading into the first intermission. Parrish corralled the rebound of a Pavol Demitra attempt and banged the puck home from just outside Theodore’s crease at 17:02.

Colorado evened the game at 5:25 of the second period on Paul Stastny’s 24th goal of the season. The Avs sustained heavy pressure in the offensive zone before Forsberg made a feed from the left faceoff dot to Stastny in front of the net. The second-year center’s initial attempt was stopped, but he knocked the rebound past a sprawling Josh Harding to even the game at 1-1.

Keith Carney answered for the Wild at 16:32 when he one-timed a feed from Pierre-Marc Bouchard from the high slot at 16:32, giving Minnesota a 2-1 lead heading into the third.

Following in His Father’s Footsteps
Paul Stastny finished the regular season as the Avalanche’s leading scorer with 71 points (24g/47a) in 66 games. His father, Peter, led the Quebec Nordiques in scoring on seven occasions, the last of which came during the 1988-89 season when the elder Stastny recorded 85 points (35g/50a) in 72 games.

No Place Like It
The Avs finished the 2007-08 campaign with a 27-12-2 mark at Pepsi Center, giving the team the second-most home wins in franchise history. Only the 2000-01 championship team (28) won more games at home. The Avs also went 9-1-0 in their final 10 home contests.

Mark of Consistency
With today’s victory, the Avalanche finished the season with 95 points for the third consecutive year. The last NHL team to record the exact same point total in three consecutive seasons was the Phoenix Coyotes from 1998-99 to 2000-01 (90 points).

Sunday Driving
There’s something about Sundays. With today’s victory over Minnesota, the Avs finished 7-0 at home on Sundays this season. Dating back to last season, the Avalanche has won its past 11 Sunday games at Pepsi Center.

A Trio of Trifectas
Peter Forsberg set up three Avalanche goals this afternoon, the third time he’s done so in the past four games he’s played. Forsberg finishes the regular season with 14 points (1g/13a) in nine games.

Lighting the Lamp
Milan Hejduk’s third-period goal was his sixth in the last seven games (7 total goals), which included a four-game goal streak from March 20-28. Hejduk finished the year with a team-leading 29 tallies, marking the fourth time in his career that he’s led the team in goals.

Loose Pucks
The Avs set a franchise record for fewest total penalties in a full season with 388…The previous mark was 402 set by the Nordiques in 1979-80…Sakic scored his 205th career power-play goal, passing Wayne Gretzky (204) for sole possession of 12th place on the all-time list…Theodore went 6-1 in shootouts this season, stopping 78.5% of his attempts (28 attempts, 6 goals allowed)…Theo is now 9-2 lifetime in shootouts, allowing just seven goals on 40 attempts (.825 save percentage).
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