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Avs Rest Up After First Round Win

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche
DENVER (AP) - After putting in all that OT, the Colorado Avalanche got some comp time from coach Joel Quenneville on Monday and Tuesday.

He gave them 48 hours off to savor their elimination of the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs. They report back to work on Wednesday.

"That's great," captain Joe Sakic said. "I think everybody is looking forward to the rest and to start watching the other series. It's not going to matter who we play."

It sure didn't matter who the Avalanche played in the first round.

They barely reached the playoffs and faced the Western Conference's second seed in an apparent mismatch, but they eliminated Dallas in five games for the second straight postseason.

Colorado won three games in overtime, including Sunday's 3-2 clincher at Dallas when new goaltender Jose Theodore stopped 50 shots, 11 in overtime, and Andrew Brunette scored on a rebound 13:55 into the extra period.

The Avalanche advanced past the first round for the eighth time in their last 10 playoff appearances, and won their NHL-leading 18th series since moving to Denver in 1995.

Few of those have been as stunning or satisfying as this one.

The Avalanche had to slash a third of their payroll and bid farewell to Peter Forsberg when the NHL resumed play with a new collective bargaining agreement and a $39 million salary cap after losing an entire season to labor strife.

They staggered into the playoffs, a new feeling for a franchise accustomed to swaggering into the postseason with confidence instead of concern.

And their biggest question mark was in the net.

Theodore, a former NHL MVP, came to Denver in a trade deadline deal with Montreal on March 8 for David Aebischer. Theodore was recovering from a fractured right heel when he arrived, then was 1-3-1 down the stretch and still getting to know his new team when the playoffs started.

"I'm beginning to feel comfortable with the people around me," Theodore said after a 4-1 loss to Dallas in Game 4. "I know how the defensemen like the puck and how they react around the net. That can only help the confidence level of the goaltender and players around him. The better the relationship between me and the rest of the team, the more improved play you will see (from me)."

Then came his 50-save performance Sunday.

"It didn't take long until I felt comfortable," Theodore said.

And until his teammates felt the same.

"I played with him in Montreal the year before the lockout and I've seen what he's done after a loss in the playoffs," Avs center Jim Dowd said. "I told (everyone), `Theo's going to come back with a huge game.' And he did. He basically stole that game for us, especially in the overtime."

"We expected (Theodore) to come in and fit in with the team and he has," Quenneville said. "We expected him to come in and help the team and he has."

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