<
>

Avs goalie stops 37 in first playoff start

4/8/2004

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado's goalie turned away shot after shot,
held up saves in his opponents' faces and heard the home crowd
chant his name.

Patrick Roy? No. It's David Aebischer.

Looking a lot like his mentor, Aebischer stopped 37 shots in his
first playoff start to help the Avalanche open the playoffs with a
3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night.

"He kept us in the game," Avalanche center Peter Forsberg
said. "They had a lot of power plays (0-for-5), and he made some
unbelievable saves. It was great to see him play like that."

Forsberg, Alex Tanguay and Joe Sakic scored for Colorado, which
will host Game 2 Friday night.

It proved to be more than enough offense for Aebischer.

After spending three seasons as Roy's backup, Aebischer was
supposed to be the big question mark in a season that started with
Colorado adding scorers Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya on the same
day.

Aebischer turned out to be Colorado's most consistent player,
finishing the season with 32 wins and a 2.09 goals-against average.

But once the playoffs arrived, the questions started again.
After all, Aebischer's playoff experience amounted to 35 minutes of
mop-up duty in two games.

But in all that time behind Roy, Aebischer was watching and
learning. He was there when Roy won the last of his four Stanley
Cup titles in 2001, and he saw how Roy handled himself after giving up
six goals in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference finals.

It rubbed off, if just for one game.

Aebischer faced just six shots in the first period against
Dallas, but he kept his composure -- a lot like Roy -- when the Stars
picked up the pressure.

Aebischer blocked one shot through traffic on a power play
midway through the second period, then stuffed Jason Arnott from
the edge of the crease with a sprawling save that led to a chant of
"Abby! Abby!" from the crowd.

He ended the period by stopping Jere Lehtinen, as the horn
sounded, after his stick went flying into the corner.

Aebischer was even better in the third period, making 20
saves -- including one with his stick after a shot bounced over his
head toward the post and another with his glove that he held up in
Bill Guerin's face.

"I was a little bit more nervous than usual, but after the puck
dropped, it went away and I felt pretty good," Aebischer said.

The defensive-minded Stars were sluggish on both ends early,
giving up two goals in the first nine minutes. Dallas picked up the
pace with 32 shots over the final two periods but couldn't beat
Aebischer until Niko Kapanen's wrister trickled through his pads
with 6:30 left.

"It probably wasn't the start we wanted," said Stars goalie
Marty Turco, who faced 25 shots. "Certainly the strong push to
finish, the hunger at the end was there. It was a great lesson for
us."

The Avalanche were hoping the start of the playoffs would
produce some sort of spark after they ended the regular season with
two wins in 10 games.

It sure did.

Colorado was crisp from the start, with numerous good scoring
chances early and tight checking at the blue line. The Avalanche
outshot Dallas 15-6 in the first period and had two goals in their
first seven shots.

"We had good energy to start the game," Avalanche coach Tony
Granato said. "We skated extremely well, and we were able to get a
couple."

Forsberg opened the scoring 6:14 in, slipping a rebound between Turco's pads after tipping Rob Blake's shot from the right boards. Marek Svatos set it up with a cross-ice pass through traffic that had the Stars scrambling to get back in position.

Tanguay made it 2-0 just over two minutes later when his centering pass from the left dot hit diving Dallas defenseman Teppo Numminen and caromed past Turco.

"Just a couple of unfortunate bounces and it's 2-0," Stars
center Mike Modano said. "It was catch-up from there."

Sakic put the Avalanche up 3-0 just four minutes into the third
period, flipping a backhander off Turco after his first shot was
knocked down in traffic.

Game notes
Svatos' assist was his first career playoff point. ...
Dallas D Jon Klemm didn't play because of a "lower body injury"
sustained against Chicago on Sunday. ... Colorado C Andrei Nikolishin returned after missing the final month of the regular
season with a back injury. ... Colorado won for just the second
time in its last six home playoff games.