<
>

Colorado trails 3-0 after Damphousse goal suffices

4/27/2004

DENVER (AP) -- Evgeni Nabokov could be on his way to becoming
this season's Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Nabokov stifled Colorado's lineup of high-priced All-Stars for
the third straight game, stopping 33 shots Monday night to help the
San Jose Sharks beat the Avalanche 1-0 and move within one win of
their first trip to the conference finals.

"I think Nabokov was great," said Vincent Damphousse, who
scored San Jose's only goal. "He stole the win for us. You need
that to go far in the playoffs."

Giguere did just that in 2003 when he helped the Anaheim Mighty Ducks reach the Stanley Cup finals.

San Jose fought off Colorado's early rush and got an improbable
goal by Damphousse off the back of Colorado goalie David Aebischer midway through the third period to set up a possible sweep. Game 4 is Wednesday in Denver.

The success wouldn't have been possible without Nabokov.

He was solid with 31 wins and a team-record nine shutouts during
the regular season, but it would have been hard to predict he'd be
this good in the playoffs.

Nabokov is 7-1 with two shutouts so far, and his goals-against
average is a minuscule 1.30. Against Colorado, he has given up three
goals in three games against a team that features high-scoring
forwards Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk.

It's even more impressive considering Nabokov was 8-8 with a
2.59 average his previous two trips to the playoffs.

"I just try to do my job, to take everything that comes to
me," Nabokov said. "Without the guys' help, I wouldn't be able to
do that."

Colorado was much better defensively, limiting San Jose's
chances and cutting down on the miscues that left Aebischer
helpless at times in the first two games.

The Avalanche held San Jose to 17 shots -- five in the third
period -- but continued to struggle finding the net against the
stingy Sharks. Colorado has three goals against San Jose after
scoring 19 in five games against Dallas in the first round.

The Avalanche need to find a way to get better in a hurry or
they'll be swept for the first time since Hartford did it in a
best-of-five series in 1986, when the Avs' franchise was still in
Quebec.

As for coming back from an 0-3 deficit, that has been done only twice in NHL history and not since the New York Islanders did it
against Pittsburgh in 1975.

"The only thing we can worry about is the next game,"
Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "I know it will be our best
game and we will battle like crazy."

San Jose didn't have a shot in the third period until Damphousse
knocked in his own rebound off Aebischer's back with 11:01 left.

Aebischer blocked Damphousse's first attempt after Scott Hannan's shot bounced hard off the boards, but Damphousse used Aebischer as a backboard to score inside the left post from behind the goal.

"I was behind the net, so everybody kind of moved up to clear
the front and I was able to bank it off," Damphousse said. "I
think that it was a little bit of a fluky goal."

After being outworked and outhustled the first two games in San
Jose, Colorado was intent on making sure that trend didn't go on
once the series shifted to Denver.

The Avalanche had an extra jump in their step early in front of
the home crowd, flying into San Jose's zone, zipping crisp passes,
and pounding the Sharks with hard checks every chance they got.

But Nabokov made sure Colorado's early rush didn't amount to
anything.

He made several tough stops, including a glove save on Hejduk
after a nice drop pass from Forsberg, and got a break when
John-Michael Liles' shot from the blue line hit the left post
through traffic.

Colorado added 12 more shots in the second period but still
couldn't solve Nabokov. He got a piece of Hejduk's open shot from
the slot on a power play midway through, then dived back to cover
after the puck ricocheted between him and Colorado's Dan Hinote on
a rebound in the closing seconds.

Nabokov also had 10 saves in the third period, including a
sprawling stop on Teemu Selanne midway through, to finish off his
third career playoff shutout.

"Nabokov was good this time," said Selanne, back after being a
healthy scratch in Game 2. "With all the chances we had, this
could've easily been 5-1. We just have to keep pushing."

Game notes
Colorado D Rob Blake sustained an upper body injury in the first period and didn't return. ... San Jose LW Scott Thornton played just 39 seconds because of a lower body injury. He sat out Game 1 with what was believed to be a knee injury. ... The game was
delayed seven minutes in the second period after Colorado's Bob Boughner slammed into the boards and broke a pane of glass. ... Selanne, who has just two assists in the playoffs, returned from a one-game benching. ... Toronto was the only other team to rally from a 3-0 deficit, doing it against Detroit in the 1942 finals.