GAME: Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; Sharks lead 1-0.
TIME: Saturday, 3 p.m. EDT.
At least for one game, the San Jose Sharks looked like the team loaded with
All-Stars and future Hall of Famers.
Following a dominant performance in the opener of their semifinal series
against the favored Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks will try to maintain that
momentum in Game 2 at HP Pavilion.
Though San Jose is the second seed in the Western Conference and finished
the regular season with four more points than fourth-seeded Colorado, few have
given the Sharks much of a chance to knock off the talent-laden Avalanche.
Judging by San Jose's performance in Game 1, those critics may want to
rethink their position.
Patrick Marleau recorded his second hat trick of the playoffs and the Sharks
outclassed the Avalanche in every area, coasting to a 5-2 victory Thursday.
Vincent Damphousse and Scott Hannan also scored and Niko Dimitrakos set up
three goals for San Jose, which jumped to a 3-0 lead by the end of the first
period and used its speed, depth and discipline to frustrate Colorado, a
perennial Stanley Cup contender with numerous marquee players.
"You want to work hard, and if the points come, great," said Marleau, the
NHL playoff leader with six goals. "But the most important thing is the team's
winning. We try to come out of the gate pretty hard and get our game going. We
used our speed to our advantage, get that extra step out there."
Fast starts have become common for San Jose, which outscored opponents 79-44
in the first period during the regular season.
While they were happy to win the opener, the Sharks know winning one game
means little. San Jose beat Colorado 6-3 in the first game of the conference
semifinals in 2002, but the Avalanche rebounded with an 8-2 victory in Game 2
and won that series in seven games.
"It's just one game," Damphousse said. "We showed we can play with them.
That's great for our confidence. But they're a great team. I expect them to
come back strong on Saturday."
Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov faced very few difficult scoring chances, while
Colorado's David Aebischer had his worst game of the playoffs, allowing five
goals on 17 shots before he was replaced by Tommy Salo with 6:47 left in the
Goaltending was the biggest question for the Avalanche heading into the
postseason, but Aebischer was very good in the quarterfinals victory over
Dallas, stopping 146 of 156 shots while outplaying Marty Turco.
"The good thing about the playoffs, it's just one game," Aebischer said.
"You lose 1-0 or 5-2, it doesn't matter. You start 0-0 next game. They played
better than us everywhere."
Colorado coach Tony Granato, who played for the Sharks from 1996-2001,
defended his goalie.
"We took him out because we needed a momentum change," Granato said.
"They made good shots. It's like any other game that David lets goals in. He's
going to be disappointed, thinking he should have stopped some of them. He'll
bounce back. He'll have a great game on Saturday."
The return of speedy center Alyn McCauley provided the Sharks with a lift in
Game 1. McCauley, a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league's best
defensive forward, hadn't played since the first game of the playoffs because
of a shoulder injury.
"When Alyn came back, we had all our speed," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said.
"And we'll challenge any team in the league to skate with us now."
San Jose could get another key player back for Game 2. Rugged forward Scott
Thornton sat out Thursday with what is believed to be a knee injury, but could
Colorado will have left wing Alex Tanguay in the lineup for Game 2. Tanguay,
the Avs' second-leading scorer this season with 79 points, missed the previous
two games with a knee injury.
"I felt great out there for a whole practice," Tanguay said. "It really
hurts not being with the guys. It comes to a point where you don't have any
more nails to bite, and you're just anxious to get out there. The odds are
The series moves to Colorado for Game 3 on Monday.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Avalanche - 4th seed; beat Dallas Stars 4-1,
quarterfinals. Sharks - 2nd seed; beat St. Louis Blues 4-1, quarterfinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Steve
Konowalchuk, 4 goals; Forsberg, Rob Blake and Marek Svatos, 5 assists;
Forsberg, 9 points; Chris Gratton, 25 PIM. Sharks - Marleau, 6 goals and 7
points; Damphousse, 5 assists, Curtis Brown, 12 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 30.8 percent (8 for 26).
Penalty killing: 80.0 percent (24 for 30). Sharks - Power play: 12.8 percent (5
for 39). Penalty killing: 88.9 percent (24 for 27).
GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (4-2, 0 SO, 2.50 GAA); Salo (0-0, 0.00).
Sharks - Nabokov (5-1, 1, 1.63); Vesa Toskala (no appearances)
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 2-1-1. Sakic led the Avs with two goals
and four assists in the series, and Milan Hejduk had two goals and three
assists. Aebischer posted a 1.97 GAA in playing all four games. Nils Ekman had
three goals and an assist for San Jose.