GAME: Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; Sharks lead 3-1.
TIME: Saturday, 3 p.m. EDT.
If Colorado intends to extend its semifinal series with San Jose, it'll have
to do something no one has been able to do this postseason - beat the Sharks on
their home ice.
San Jose looks to move on to the Western Conference finals when it meets the
Avalanche in Game 5 at HP Pavilion.
The Sharks looked very strong in the first round as they polished off the
St. Louis Blues in five games. Three of the four wins in that series came at
home, where San Jose outscored St. Louis 7-2.
San Jose continued its dominance at HP Pavilion in the first two games of
this series, outscoring Colorado 9-3 to take a 2-0 lead heading into Game 3 in
The Sharks won that contest 1-0 to move within one victory of advancing, but
on Wednesday night, the Avs staved off elimination with a 1-0 overtime victory
to send the series back to San Jose.
Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov was superb again on Wednesday, stopping 35
shots, but he wasn't able to recover fast enough after defenseman Mike Rathje
couldn't handle a puck out of the corner in overtime.
Colorado captain Joe Sakic took advantage of Rathje's fumble, lifting a shot
just inside the left post and crossbar from the slot 5:15 into the extra period
to end the Avs' scoreless streak against Nabokov at 178 minutes, 14 seconds.
"I don't think anybody expected us to sweep the Avalanche," Nabokov said.
"One loss didn't make us a frustrated team."
Besides, the Sharks still have three more chances - two in San Jose - to
clinch their first trip to the conference finals.
"We still are in control of the series," San Jose forward Wayne Primeau
said. "We'll go home and hope to keep the same mindset."
The Avs' mindset is to not worry that their next loss will end their season,
and they showed that lax attitude in Game 4 on Wednesday.
"We came into today's game pretty loose and we found a way to win a hockey
game," Sakic said. "It's going to be the same thing for Game 5. Hopefully,
we'll find a way to win that one and put a lot of pressure on them coming back
into our building."
Colorado goalie David Aebischer finally matched his counterpart to give the
Avs a glimmer of hope, stopping 27 shots Wednesday for his first playoff
But he'll have to keep doing it if the Avs are going to have any chance of
becoming the third team in 87 years to win a series after trailing 3-0.
"My confidence is always high. That hasn't changed," said Aebischer. "I
know it's not going to be easy. I'm going to have to have a couple more
performances like that."
After 12 goals were scored in the first two games of this series, the
goaltenders have taken over in the last two contests. Nabokov has stopped 68 of
69 shots, while Aebischer has allowed one goal in the last 44 shots against
"Nabokov has played really well and Abby has been great," said Colorado
forward Peter Forsberg, who has a team-high 10 points in the playoffs.
"There's not going to be a whole lot of goals."
Game 6, if necessary, would be Tuesday in Denver.
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 - Sakic, 5 goals; Forsberg, 6 assists and 10
points; Chris Gratton, 27 PIM. Sharks - Patrick Marleau, 7 goals and 10 points;
Niko Dimitrakos, 7 assists; Scott Hannan, 14 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 21.1 percent (8 for 38).
Penalty killing: 80.5 percent (33 for 41). Sharks - Power play: 14.0 percent (7
for 50). Penalty killing: 92.3 percent (36 for 39).
GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (5-4, 1 SO, 2.10 GAA); Tommy Salo (0-0,
0.00). Sharks - Nabokov (7-2, 2, 1.30); Vesa Toskala (no appearances).