Series (Game 4 of 4)

Colorado leads 4-0

Game 1: Monday, November 25th
Game 2: Monday, February 17th
Game 3: Sunday, March 2nd
Game 4: Saturday, March 22nd

Blackhawks 1

(27-32-5, 69 pts)

Avalanche 8

(37-18-7, 93 pts)

3:00 PM ET, March 22, 2003

Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

1 2 3 T
CHI 0 1 01
COL 1 5 28

A. Tanguay (Avalanche - LW): Goals: 3, Assists: 0

P. Forsberg (Avalanche - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 5

D. Morris (Avalanche - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 3

Forsberg ties career-high with five assists

DENVER (AP) -- Alex Tanguay says he is the same player who couldn't buy a goal earlier in the season. The stats don't agree.

 Alex Tanguay

Tanguay stayed hot with his first career hat trick and the Colorado Avalanche clinched a playoff spot by routing the Chicago Blackhawks 8-1 Saturday.

"I don't know the difference," said Tanguay, who went 16 games in late November and early December without a goal. "I'm still working as hard as I have been all year and now they are going in."

Tanguay, who has 20 goals and 33 assists in his last 44 games, scored twice in the second period, when Colorado had five goals. Rob Blake, Adam Foote and Stephen Reinprecht added second-period goals.

"Confidence goes a long way in any sport, and in the first 15 or 20 games Alex was squeezing the stick," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "I think as soon as we put him together with Peter (Forsberg) and Milan (Hejduk) and a goal went in for him, he started to relax and believe in himself again."

Tanguay agreed.

"Peter is a factor. He's playing as well as I've seen him play and it rubs off," he said.

Forsberg had a career-high five assists for the Avalanche, who moved within four points of idle Vancouver for the lead in the Northwest Division. The Avs have made the playoffs every season since moving to Denver for the 1995-96 season. They also made the playoffs in their final year in Quebec.

Patrick Roy stopped 22 shots in two periods to improve to 30-14-12, his 13th 30-win season and eighth consecutive year with at least that many victories. Granato replaced Roy with David Aebischer for the third period.

"Tony came to me, and we talked about it," Roy said. "We both agreed it was OK to give a little action to Abby."

The Avalanche completed a four-game season sweep of Chicago.

Jason Strudwick had the lone goal for Chicago. Craig Andersson gave up five goals in his second career start for the Blackhawks, then Steve Passmore came on.

Leading 1-0, Blake, Foote and Reinprecht scored 2:51 apart early in the second period. Blake converted a cross-ice pass from Joe Sakic; Foote buried a shot from the slot after taking a no-look pass from Forsberg; and Reinprecht converted a pass for Sakic.

Tanguay took Forsberg's pass from behind the net to beat Andersson, who was without a stick.

"The way I see it, a goalie has to roll with the punches," Andersson said. "I'm not the first or the last guy that those guys scored on."

After Strudwick scored on a rebound for Chicago, Tanguay sent a shot between Passmore's pads for his third goal of the game.

"They got their chances and they put them in the net," Chicago coach Brian Sutter said of the second period. "It wasn't like they had 50 shots and played 90 percent of the period in our end of the rink."

Milan Hejduk and Serge Aubin had third-period goals for Colorado.

The Avs took a 1-0 lead on Tanguay's first goal after Forsberg skated down a loose puck along the boards and fed defensemen Derek Morris in the slot. Morris passed to Tanguay in the right circle and Tanguay sent a wrist shot over Andersson's glove.

Steve Poapst nearly tied it two minutes later when his shot from the right point hit the goalpost and caromed off the back of Roy.

Roy reached back at the last minute the catch the puck.

Game notes
Blackhawks goaltender Jocelyn Thibault (post concussion syndrome) will be re-evaluated in a week. ... Andersson denied shorthanded chances by Jeff Shantz and Eric Messier with glove saves in the first period. ... The Blackhawks are 1-7-1-0 in their last nine games in Denver. ... Chicago's Chris Simon and Avalanche Scott Parker exchanged punches in the second period. ... Morris had three assists to give him a career-high 32 for the year. ... Hejduk reached a career high with his 42nd goal. ... The Avalanche have killed 15 consecutive penalties over five games.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press