Avs cautious even with 3-0 series lead

Updated: April 27, 2006, 7:06 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Not since the New York Islanders came back to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1975 has an NHL team overcome a 3-0 deficit in the playoffs.

Only one other team, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, won a series after losing the first three games, but the Colorado Avalanche aren't putting it past the Dallas Stars to join that exclusive comeback club in 2006.

"They have such a great hockey club -- they get a win, they get on a roll," Avs captain Joe Sakic said Thursday. "Nobody here wants that to happen."

So instead of exuding cockiness over their commanding lead as they head into Game 4 on Friday night at the Pepsi Center, the Avalanche are proceeding with extreme caution.

After all, the clincher is always the hardest win to secure.

"The games get tougher every game," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville agreed. "Closing out a team is the toughest. It is the toughest challenge you can face."

But for late collapses in consecutive games, the Stars would be up 2-1 right now. Twice in 48 hours, they allowed the tying goal late in the third period and then succumbed to the swarming Avs in overtime.

"They're a very veteran team. They understand they've been in the last two games. A bounce here or there and the games could hav been different," Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake said.

"Knowing that they have got guys that have been around a long time, had guys that have won Cups and guys with a lot of leadership, that's why we expect their best game," he said.

On Wednesday night, Andrew Brunette scored the tying goal on a deflection with 56 seconds left and Alex Tanguay's shot 1:09 into overtime glanced off Dallas defenseman Willie Mitchell's skate and between Marty Turco's legs.

"That's not the recipe for success," Quenneville said. "We were lucky both games. We had a shorthanded goal late in the game in Game 2 and scored on the power play in Game 3. Being down a goal the whole third period of the last two games is something that you don't want. You would rather have the lead and dictate the play."

The Stars would love to be in Colorado's skates, however.

"This is discouraging," Dallas' Stu Barnes said. "The tying goal was a bounce off our skate back to their guy. And then the overtime winner is the same thing. It is frustrating, but it's also playoff hockey.

"You have to do everything absolutely right and get the bounces, too, to have success," he said.

The Stars have done very little right and they've gotten precious few lucky bounces so far.

Yet the Avs aren't treating them with any less respect. If anything, they know they're going to face an even more determined Dallas team from here on out.

"They are not going to quit," Sakic said. "They are going to fight, they are going to do whatever they can to get a win. There is no tomorrow if you don't win that game. That's what makes it real hard to win your fourth one."

Quenneville called his team "very fortunate to win the last two games" and tried to convince his team Thursday that it needed to be as desperate a bunch as the Stars.

"We finished strong in Game 3 and hope it carries over to Game 4," Quenneville said. "Our mind-set is we have to have to win this game."

The Stars should be refreshed for Friday night after coach Dave Tippett gave them the day off Thursday.

The Avs sure aren't anticipating any let-up when the puck drops.

"They won't go down without a fight," Ian Laperriere said. "They are known for that and it starts from the back of their net with Turco and goes on up."

Added Colorado goaltender Jose Theodore: "Nobody relaxes in the playoffs. Getting the fourth win is the toughest. We expect to see their best."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press