AVALANCHE at SHARKS
(Best-of-seven series tied 2-2)
Big story -- When it comes to playoff hockey, goaltending is usually the dominant factor. The Avs and Sharks have alternated wins over the first four games, with each contest being decided by one goal and Games 2, 3 and 4 all ending in overtime. Colorado's Craig Anderson has been brilliant, and San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov bounced back from a shaky night in Game 2 with a pair of excellent performances in Denver. Anderson is the reason the Avs are heading into Game 5 at the Shark Tank all even.
Avalanche -- Tuesday's 2-1 overtime loss in Game 4 at the Pepsi Center saw the Avs again give up a lot of shots (45), but this time, they got 34 of their own and actually managed to spend significant amounts of time in the San Jose zone -- something that wasn't the case in Sunday's 1-0 overtime win in Game 3. Paul Stastny scored the Avs' only goal on Tuesday -- his first goal of this year's playoffs.
"It was a hard-fought game out there and it's certainly going to be a hard-fought series, just like we thought it would be at the start," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after the loss.
Sharks -- It was a relieved group of Sharks that boarded the plane home on Tuesday night after evening the series. San Jose is doing all it can to erase the memories of last season's first-round loss to the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks, and regaining the home-ice advantage could do a lot toward that end.
"It was a game we really wanted. To go down 3-1 is a really tough hole," said center Pavelski, who had the winning goal at 10:24 of OT. "Even up now at 2-2 and going back home, hopefully we can carry this and learn our lesson and get off to another good start."
Who's hot -- Anderson has been the star of the series for the Avs. He's leading all playoff goalies with 165 saves and is second in the League with a .948 save percentage. For San Jose, Pavelski has 2 goals and 2 assists, including the game-winner Tuesday and the game-tying goal in the final seconds of regulation in Game 2.
Injury report -- Peter Mueller (concussion) still isn't skating and out indefinitely for Colorado. Milan Hejduk (upper body) did not make the trip to San Jose but is expected back at some point this series. David Jones (knee) also stayed back in Denver, but Kevin Porter (upper body) was on the team flight Wednesday and is available for the Avs. For San Jose, Dany Heatley returned Tuesday after missing Sunday's Game 3 with an undisclosed injury.
Stat pack -- The Sharks have outshot the Avalanche 174-103 over the first four games of this series, including 148-73 in the last three games.
Puck drop -- Even the coaches are coming to the realization that this series will be decided by the goalies. Sharks coach Todd McLellan praised Nabokov on Tuesday but he did manage to recognize the opposing goaltender's efforts.
"Nabby made some very good saves," McLellan said. "You could feel our bench settle down. It was real important that Nabby performed the way he did tonight. Give Anderson credit, but I prefer to talk about our goaltender tonight because he really stood in and did what he was supposed to do."