Avs need goalie to regain his composure

Updated: April 21, 2004, 2:39 PM ET
Associated Press

DALLAS -- As great as Patrick Roy was in winning three Conn Smythe Awards and four Stanley Cups, he still had his share of soft goals and overtime losses along the way. What made him special was the way he responded.

The Colorado Avalanche are about to find out how well David Aebischer was paying attention during his four years as Roy's backup.

After a solid regular season and a strong start to his first postseason, Aebischer broke down in Game 3 of a first-round series against the Dallas Stars, letting a two-goal lead dissolve into a 4-3 overtime loss.

Dallas' comeback began with a power-play goal just two seconds before the second period ended. Another goal late in the third period tied it, then Steve Ott, a second-year center who hadn't scored since early February, beat Aebischer on a breakaway 2:11 into overtime.

The Stars are hoping the loss -- and the way it happened -- will weigh on the psyche of Aebischer, a 26-year-old playoff novice who knows he's still playing in Roy's shadow. Game 4 is Wednesday night in Dallas.

"The shoes he's had to fill there in Denver this year, with Patrick leaving, I think that kind of looms," Dallas center Mike Modano said Tuesday. "I think everybody's going to be talking about that. If there is some sort of doubt we can put in his mind, the better it is."

Unlike fiery Roy, who might have called the Stars' goals flukes or vowed to be better than ever next time, Aebischer spoke only briefly after the loss, saying, "We have to put this behind us and go forward."

Aebischer wasn't available Tuesday as all the regulars worked out at the team hotel and were excused from an optional practice.

Coach Tony Granato said Aebischer was in good spirits. Granato repeatedly praised his goalie's poise and confidence, and he did his best to deflect any questions about adversity or facing the scrutiny Modano mentioned.

"It's a loss. You can describe it any way you want," Granato said. "Any time you lose a game, you want to bounce back and win the next time out. That's professionalism. That's the way David is and our other remaining players are as well. I expect him to find a way to be better tomorrow."

Colorado dominated the first two games, with Aebischer allowing only three goals. The Avs were were in control of the third until Scott Young scored to make it 3-2 going into the second intermission. They took only three shots the rest of the game, a passive approach aimed at protecting their lead rather than trying to add to it.

The Stars helped themselves by getting to the net more, clogging Aebischer's view and making it difficult for him around the crease. Those were certainly factors on the first two goals, both on power plays, and the third, a wide-angle shot from the narrow gap between the boards and the outside of a faceoff circle.

"He's a really good goaltender, but like any good goalie, you drive to the net, create traffic, put a lot of shots," Dallas forward Valeri Bure said. "I think that's the way we're going to beat him. He's really no different from any other goalie in the National Hockey League. We've just got to continue to do what we did last game, and that way we'll be successful."

Colorado probably doesn't have to change much, either.

The Avs have scored two first-period goals in all three games, quite a feat considering Dallas allowed that to happen just five times in 82 regular-season games. Colorado also has led for all but 4:36 of this series.

"We have to stay positive," Avalanche right wing Teemu Selanne said, "because we all know how good we can be."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE