Sharks send Avalanche packing
Joe Pavelski scored his second goal of the game midway through the third period to help the San Sharks eliminate the Colorado Avalanche in six games on Saturday night.
Pavelski scored on a 2-on-1 with Devin Setoguchi, beating Colorado goalie Craig Anderson with a high shot to make the score 3-2 and the Sharks never trailed again. Pavelski also drew an assist on Dan Boyle's goal 90 seconds earlier as San Jose erased a one-goal deficit.
The winner was Pavelski's fifth of the series and he also scored 47 seconds into the game at Pepsi Center in Denver. Doug Murray and Setoguchi scored empty-net goals for a 5-2 final.
The line of Pavelski, Setoguchi and Ryan Clowe was again the most effective for San Jose.
"I think we were prepared to work and that was the simplest thing," Pavelski told Hockey Night in Canada immediately after the game. "You saw the way a lot of the goals went in — second opportunities, from bad angles, and we were able to do that. We got it down low and held on to it and the simple part of the game worked for us."
Colorado ended Evgeni Nabokov's shutout streak at 133 minutes when Marek Svatos scored in the second period and briefly went up early in the third on Brandon Yip's goal.
San Jose is the top Western seed but were given plenty of headaches by the Avalanche, who finished 18 points behind them in the standings.
The Sharks are the first team in the conference to advance and will look to progress beyond the second round for just the second time in franchise history. They reached the conference final in 2004 but since the lockout have endured playoff disappointment after strong regular seasons.
"Well, it's our first step and that's all that is," veteran Rob Blake told HNIC. "We got it, we'll be excited about it tonight, but we'll move on.
"It wasn't easy, they competed every night, they competed right here down the wire."
Nabokov finished with 16 saves for San Jose.
Colorado wasn't picked by many hockey observers to make the playoffs, but they returned after a one-year absence and despite the retirement of team legend Joe Sakic after two decades.
"From Day 1 in training camp we tried to recreate the identity here with the Avalanche organization with how he wanted to play, how we wanted to be perceived again," said Avalanche coach Joe Sacco.
Rare early goal
Anderson, the free agent signing, was a big reason for the turnaround. He finished with 29 saves in the final game and faced nearly 100 more shots than Nabokov in the series.
The series featured just three first-period goals over the first five games, but the Sharks struck just 47 seconds into Game 6.
Pavelski scored from behind the Colorado net, using his stick to hook a wraparound between Anderson's pads.
Nabokov was tested early, but he moved quickly laterally to get in the way of Kevin Porter's shot three minutes into the game.
San Jose pressured the Avalanche on a late period power play, but a pair of Blake blasts from the points were stopped by Anderson.
"We were a little tentative early on," Blake said. "We need to come out and we've got to play similar to the way we did earlier in the series."
Chris Stewart fired a hard shot that just missed the target for the Avalanche, and then Svatos sped down the left wing ahead of Joe Thornton and cut in front of Murray and Boyle to drive to the crease and score.
The teams each had a power play in the back half of the second period but could not connect. Patrick Marleau drove down the left side but could not convert, while Nabokov stretched to glove a John-Michael Liles point blast.
The Sharks got off to a better start in the third but could not score early, with Colorado pulling ahead at 4:51.
Kent Huskins couldn't intercept a Paul Stastny pass, only slowing it for Yip in the crease to knock behind Nabokov.
San Jose found themselves in another gut-check moment, and they responded.
"Colorado did a tremendous job of competing and they pushed us to the limit," said Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
The Sharks got the Avalanche running in their own end, and after Dany Heatley rang a shot off the post, Boyle's went off a stick and off the post and in at 7:33.
Boyle inadvertently scored into his own net in overtime in Game 3 to put the Sharks down by a game in the series.
"The guys just had a strong Game 4 and Nabby played well and that was it," said Boyle. "Everyone wants to talk about [disappointments] years past, but we keep telling people that's in the past. It's a new year, new team and we've turned the page."
Clowe then drew his second assist to lead Pavelski on the odd-man rush. Pavelski briefly lost the puck, which may have actually taken Anderson out of his rhythm.
The Avalanche made it tense for San Jose for a sequence with Anderson and the bench for an extra attacker, but San Jose would pot their two empty-netters 21 seconds apart.