Another postseason, another huge goal for Joe Sakic
The Colorado Avalanche captain scored at 11:11 of overtime on Wednesday night, leading his team to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal matchup at Xcel Energy Center.
''It was right there on my backhand,'' Sakic said of the game-winner. ''Just being in the right place at the right time, I guess.''
By being in the right place at the right time, Sakic set an NHL record with his eighth overtime postseason goal. It also gave the Avs a 1-0 series lead, with Game 2 slated for Friday night in St. Paul.
“Great pace … lots of excitement at both ends of the rink,” Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. “Joe came up with another big one. Joe’s a scorer. He’s a great player and he knows his way around the rink as good as anybody. Sometimes you get the fortunate bounce, but you know where to go to get the fortunate bounces.”
The Avalanche managed to hold a 2-0 lead after two periods despite being outshot 21-7. Kurt Sauer got things going 1:29 into the second on a set-up by Sakic. Ryan Smyth put Colorado up by a pair when he redirected Jeff Finger’s shot past Niklas Backstrom.
Sakic attributed the lead to the play of Colorado netminder Jose Theodore, who stopped all 21 he faced through the first 40 minutes.
“We were fortunate to be up 2-0,” Sakic said. “Jose really kept us in it and gave us a chance tonight. We’ll take the win, but we know they’re going to be even better next game. We have to step up and have a better start.”
Minnesota got things going and rallied to tie the game in the third period. Mikko Koivu cut the deficit in half at 3:02 when his feed intended for Brian Rolston went off Finger’s skate and into the net to make it 2-1. Todd Fedoruk evened the score when he parked himself in front of the net during a power play and nudged one past Theodore at 6:13.
''We know we can play these guys,'' Koivu said. ''We know it's going to be tight all the way. That's how it's going to be. It's going to be a fight. Every game, every shift. We just couldn't finish the way we wanted.''
Smyth couldn’t finish the golden opportunity he was awarded with 2:27 remaining in regulation. He failed to score on a penalty shot, thanks to a tremendous pad save by Backstrom — a save that forced overtime. Moments earlier, David Jones had a goal that was waved off due when it was ruled the puck had been kicked in and Milan Hejduk had a redirection that went off the goal post.
Both teams had chances in the overtime before Sakic backhanded the rebound of Ruslan Salei’s shot behind a helpless Backstrom.
''I'll have to take Joe out for dinner, I guess,'' Smyth said. ''He saved me — bailed me out. This guy has got nothing but dedication and heart towards winning. He knows what it takes. ... For how young he is, he's still got it.''
Flames get jump on Sharks with 3-2 road win | Video
The Calgary Flames gave Mike Keenan his first playoff victory in 12 years — and gave the San Jose Sharks and their fans something to worry about in the process.
The Sharks have stumbled in the second round in each of the past two seasons, and they took another tumble in their series opener against Calgary. The Flames quieted the HP Pavilion with two goals in the first 5:17 and Miikka Kiprusoff made 37 saves in a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night.
Stephane Yelle scored a pair of goals for Calgary, which won its fourth consecutive playoff game at the Shark Tank, including three in a row in the 2004 Western Conference finals — as well as its third without a loss there this season.
Ryan Clowe had both San Jose goals, including one with 56 seconds left. The Sharks pulled Evgeni Nabokov and pressured Kiprusoff in the final seconds, but were unable to get the tying goal.
San Jose was 18-2-2 in its final 22 games, with the two losses coming at the end of the season after the Sharks had clinched the Pacific Division with an 18-0-2 burst. The Shark Tank was charged up for San Jose’s playoff debut, but Calgary quieted the building with its two early goals.
“There was a high energy level in the building,” Keenan said. “''When you can defuse that enthusiasm by scoring early, especially on the road, it definitely helps. We had a lot of energy at the start of the game and got off to a strong start.”
Yelle opened the scoring with a nimble deflection of Robyn Regehr's slap shot just 2:47 into the game, a goal that was upheld by video review.
“Reggie got the puck to the net,” said Yelle, who has two Stanley Cup rings from his days with Colorado but scored only three goals this season. “I just happened to get a stick on it.”
After San Jose’s Kyle McLaren took a high-sticking penalty at 5:02, Phaneuf made it 2-0 just 15 seconds later with a power-play goal that left the fans stunned and silent.
''I thought we came out with the right intentions, but maybe we were kind of tight, and they were really hungry,'' Clowe said.
The sellout crowd quickly got back into the game when Clowe banged Patrick Marleau’s pass behind Kiprusoff just 49 seconds later, cutting the margin to 2-1. It was Clowe’s first goal since his recent return from a knee injury that kept him out for all but 15 games of the regular season.
San Jose dominated play from that point until well into the second period, limiting the Flames to two shots in more than 20 minutes at one stretch. But the Flames got the next goal when Jarome Iginla drove down right wing, headed for the net and took a shot that Nabokov stopped. The puck kicked into the slot and Yelle rapped it over the goal line an instant before Iginla took the net off its moorings. Again, the goal was allowed after a video review.
“I saw Iggy streaking down the right side and made my way to the front of the net,” said Yelle, who had his first multigoal performance in 148 playoff games. “I just put my stick on it — garbage goal.”
Joe Thornton, the Sharks’ leading scorer, had a chance to cut the margin in half early in the third period, only to beat Kiprusoff, but hit the post. San Jose outshot Calgary 14-6 in the third period, but was unable to score until Thornton’s passout found Clowe, who had his first shot hit Kiprusoff. But the Flames’ netminder was able to corral the rebound, and Clowe flipped it past the goaltender.
Sharks coach Ron Wilson wasn’t too unhappy with anything but the result.
“I was encouraged by how we played,” he said. “We played hard all night. We had enough scoring chances. Kiprusoff made some great saves.”
The series resumes Thursday night — the only first-round series to start with back-to-back games — and Wilson is glad his team won’t have a lot of time to think about the loss.
“It’s better to get right back on the horse,” he said of playing the next night after a loss. “If we continue to play like we did for most of the game, the puck has to go in for us.”
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.