Sharks finish the Avs
DENVER – The San Jose Sharks finally finished off the Colorado Avalanche to reach the conference finals for the first time.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 28 shots, and the Sharks scored three goals in the second period to beat the Avalanche 3-1 Tuesday night in Game 6.
Vincent Damphousse, Marcel Goc and Jonathan Cheechoo had goals to help San Jose avoid becoming the third team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games.
The Sharks will face the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference finals.
The Avalanche won Games 4 and 5 in overtime to put pressure on the Sharks, but Colorado was sluggish early and couldn’t beat Nabokov again after Milan Hejduk scored late in the second period.
San Jose got back to the puck-control style that was so effective in the first two games of the series. The Sharks comfortably set up in Colorado’s zone for long stretches to create scoring chances.
The Avalanche certainly helped, spending the early part of the game chipping pucks out of their own end and managing just two shots in the first period.
San Jose was far more aggressive at the start after scoring two goals the previous three games, creating numerous good scoring chances and outshooting Colorado 6-1 in the first 10 minutes.
Damphousse – of course – broke through 1:34 into the second period, lifting a shot over David Aebischer’s right shoulder after Niko Dimitrakos’ shot from the side bounced through the crease. It was Damphousse’s fifth goal of the series.
Goc made it 2-0 just over seven minutes later, tipping Curtis Brown’s shot past Aebischer’s stick side.
Cheechoo added to the lead just three minutes later when he kept the puck on a two-on-one, deked Paul Kariya to the ice and beat Aebischer with a wrist shot a few seconds after San Jose killed off a penalty.
But the Avalanche wouldn’t go away easily.
Hejduk scored with 2:26 left in the period, bouncing a shot off Nabokov’s mask from the left circle with Colorado on a two-man advantage.
The Avalanche turned up the pressure in the third period, but Nabokov was there each time. He stopped nine shots in the period to finish the series with a 1.01 goals-against average.
Colorado’s Peter Forsberg couldn’t get much going in what might have been his final NHL game.
He was physical, as usual, but had trouble controlling the puck at times. His usually crisp passes seemed to just miss.
With his contract up and an NHL lockout possible, Forsberg could be headed home to Sweden to finish his hockey career.
Notes: Goc’s goal was the first by a San Jose player other than Damphousse since Wayne Primeau scored an empty-netter in the closing seconds of Game 2. … Kariya was back after missing the first 10 playoff games with a sprained ankle.