Last-minute goal helps Avs shock Sharks
Chris Stewart’s shot deflected off San Jose defender Rob Blake’s
skate and into the net with 50 seconds left in regulation to give
the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 victory Wednesday night in the opener
of the first-round series.
The loss was just the latest playoff disappointment for the
Sharks, who have made a bad habit of following up stellar regular
seasons with early postseason exits. San Jose has lost Game 1 at
home in its past four playoff series.
This was especially shocking, considering it came against an
eighth-seeded Avalanche team that had the worst record in the
Western Conference a year ago.
But with a second-period goal by John-Michael Liles, 25 saves
from playoff novice Craig Anderson and a fortunate bounce off the
skate of one of its former star players in Blake, the Avalanche are
off to a roaring playoff start.
After a flat second period, the Sharks tied it midway through
the third when Ryane Clowe’s bad-angle shot from the boards got
through a screen by Joe Pavelski and beat Anderson. But instead of
reversing San Jose’s playoff fortunes, it only delayed the
Stewart, another of Colorado’s 10 playoff newcomers in the
lineup, fired a shot in the corner in front of the net. The puck
hit off Blake’s skate and past a helpless Evgeni Nabokov. Perhaps
it was fitting that it was Blake who deflected in the winner,
considering he spent five seasons with the Avalanche, winning the
Stanley Cup in 2001.
The Sharks were greeted in introductions by a frenzied,
towel-waving crowd, hoping the team had put its past playoff
failures in the past. Despite having the second most points in the
league the past five seasons, San Jose has failed to make it past
the second round of the playoffs in that span.
The biggest disappointment came last season when the Sharks
fell in the first round to Anaheim despite having the best record
in the league in the regular season. San Jose lost the opener of
that series 2-0.
Most of the Avalanche players had no playoff failures to
burden them or success to fall back on. Half of Avs in the lineup
made their postseason debut Wednesday night. But they looked like
playoff veterans in the second half of the second period, when they
dominated the play from end to end. After failing to get a shot on
goal in the first 9 minutes of the second, Colorado outshot San
Jose 12-2 in the final 11.
The Avalanche earned two power plays with their aggressive
play, converting on the first chance when Liles shot from the point
went through traffic and beat Nabokov for the first goal of the
Colorado did not fold after Clowe’s equalizer and will try to
take a 2-0 lead back home by winning game 2 on Friday night in San
The Sharks wanted to get off to a fast start to silence the
questions about their playoff prowess and to prevent all those
postseason novices from Colorado from finding their legs. It looked
as if that was just what would happen when Stewart was called for
hooking in the offensive zone just 28 seconds into the game.
San Jose put good pressure on Anderson, getting six shots on
goal during the power play, but was unable to get any through. Dany
Heatley hit a post just after the power play ended.
There was good action at both ends for the rest of the
period. Darcy Tucker was unable to get a shot off for Colorado when
he couldn’t handle a pass from Paul Stastny on a two-on-one and
Stastny hit a post late in the period.
The Sharks best scoring chance came after T.J. Galiardi went
down behind the play when he didn’t the call after being hit in the
face by a stick. Devin Setoguchi slid a backhand wide of a mostly