Special teams play factored heavily into Colorado’s 2-1 series-clinching victory over the Minnesota Wild Saturday at Pepsi Center. But it wasn’t the Avalanche’s power play that made the biggest impact.
The Avalanche, which scored two short-handed goals during the regular season, received a shorty from Ben Guite to spark the club to both a win and a berth in the second round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I’m really proud of the way the guys played in front of me,” said Avalanche netminder Jose Theodore, who made 34 saves in the victory. “I thought tonight we played a solid game, probably our best game of the series. We knew against these guys it was going to be tight.”
Guite’s tally – his first career playoff point – came at the 8:02 mark of the first period with four seconds remaining in a goaltender interference penalty to David Jones
. Avalanche captain Joe Sakic started the play by forcing a turnover at Colorado’s blue line and made a feed just ahead to Guite, who streaked in all alone before putting a wrister over Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom’s shoulder.
Minnesota evened the game early in the second period, as Aaron Voros took a cross-ice feed from Marian Gaborik and beat Theodore over his right shoulder just 36 seconds into the frame.
But Ryan Smyth staked Colorado to a 2-1 lead heading into the final stanza when he started and finished an Avalanche cycle behind the Minnesota goal. Tyler Arnason grabbed Smyth’s dump-in and continued the cycle with a pass to David Jones
behind the net. The Avalanche rookie then found Smyth alone in the left circle for his second goal of the playoffs at 12:20.
From there, Theodore closed the door by making nine of his 34 saves in the final period to help Colorado become the first Western Conference team to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
The 2008 Western Conference Quarterfinals marked the 13th time Colorado has held a 3-2 series lead after five games since moving to Denver. After tonight’s win, the Avs have now advanced in nine of those 13 series. Colorado’s appearance in the Western Conference Semifinals also marks the ninth time in 11 postseason trips since 1996 that the club has advanced beyond the first round.
With an assist on Ben Guite’s short-handed goal in the first period, Joe Sakic tied Bryan Trottier for ninth place on the all-time playoff scoring list with his 184th playoff point while also moving within one point of long-time Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman (185) for eighth. The helper also made Sakic only the 20th player in NHL history to garner 100 postseason assists.
The Avalanche captain’s next postseason goal will tie him with Mike Bossy (85) for sixth place all-time in playoff tallies.
Two Avalanche forwards notched their first postseason points in Game Six. While Guite’s goal ignited the Avalanche, David Jones
’ assist on Ryan Smyth’s second-period tally was equally as important, as the goal went down as the game-winner.
The two forwards showed up in the box score one game after second-year center Paul Stastny
recorded his first playoff point on the game-winning goal in Game 5 Thursday night in Minnesota. Jeff Finger, who is also making his postseason debut in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, notched a pair of assists while playing in the first three games of the series.
One of the most interesting statistics from the series was tracking how much time both the Avalanche and Wild held the lead.
Though Minnesota won two games in the series, the Wild only led for 4:31 out of a total of 384:23 minutes played (1.2% of total time). The Avs, on the other hand, had the upper-hand for 199:12 (51.8%) during the six-game series. The teams were tied for a total of 180:40 (47.0%)