Sakic keeps Avalanche alive

Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2004

DENVER David Aebischer played like Patrick Roy. Joe Sakic played like himself.

It was just enough to keep Colorado's slim playoff hopes alive.

Sakic picked up a loose puck and flipped a wrist shot past Evgeni Nabokov 5:15 into overtime and Aebischer stopped 27 shots for his first playoff shutout, helping the Avalanche avoid a sweep with a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.

''We didn't stop believing,'' Colorado's Teemu Selanne said. ''It's a great confidence boost and (shows) how easy the series can turn around when you use the momentum. It's a new ballgame.''

Sakic ended Colorado's scoreless streak against Nabokov at 178 minutes, 14 seconds by lifting a shot just inside the left post and crossbar from the slot after San Jose's Mike Rathje couldn't handle a puck out of the corner.

The Avalanche finally figured out how to beat Nabokov, but it might be too late.

Only two teams in NHL history have rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a series and Game 5 is Saturday in San Jose where the Sharks won the first two games by a combined score of 9-3.

''We're in a do-or-die situation,'' Colorado's Adam Foote said. ''We had to get the first win and haven't had momentum on our side of the court yet, so we'll see what happens.''

Nabokov was superb again, stopping 35 shots, but couldn't recover fast enough after Rathje's fumble. The Sharks still have three more chances two in San Jose to clinch their first trip to the conference finals.

''We still are in control of the series,'' San Jose's Wayne Primeau said. ''We'll go home and hope to keep the same mind-set.''

The Sharks almost went home with the sweep.

Colorado went on a power play with 1:14 left in regulation, when Alexander Korolyuk received a four-minute penalty for high-sticking Teemu Selanne. The Avalanche had trouble setting up, but still had 2:45 left on the advantage when overtime started.

Colorado's Steve Konowalchuk and Marek Svatos each had good chances from close range early in overtime, but Nabokov squeezed his pads together to block both shots and kill off the penalty.

The missed opportunity seemed to have killed Colorado's chances, but Sakic made up for it with the Avalanche's first goal since Milan Hejduk scored at 7:01 of the first period of Game 2. It was Sakic's fifth overtime playoff goal, tying him with Glenn Anderson for second on the NHL list.

''Thank God Joe got one,'' said Aebischer, who has a scoreless streak of 138 minutes, 48 seconds.

Maple Leafs 4, Flyers 1

TORONTO Alexander Mogilny and the Toronto Maple Leafs' offense finally found their marks.

Mogilny scored on a breakaway to spark a three-goal, second-period outburst in helping Toronto to a 4-1 playoff win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, Chad Kilger and Darcy Tucker also scored for the Leafs, who cut the Flyers' lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven, second-round playoff series.

Game 4 is Friday at Toronto, where the Leafs have won four straight in the playoffs.

Tony Amonte scored a power-play goal for the Flyers, who lost for only the second time in the postseason after needing only five games to eliminate New Jersey in the first round.

Philadelphia failed to score the first goal for the first time in this postseason.

The Flyers also lost their composure in the third period, taking three penalties in a span of 1:26. That included a slashing infraction to Marcus Ragnarsson for a two-handed chop across the back of Mogilny's legs. Mogilny was on the ice in pain for a few minutes but he returned to the game.

Toronto scored only once during the two-man advantage that lasted for 2:26. Tucker's goal from the slot made it 4-1 with 8:24 remaining.

Mogilny opened the scoring five minutes into the second. He was set up by Mats Sundin, who stripped Alexei Zhamnov of the puck in the Toronto end, and then spun around to feed Mogilny on the fly at center.

Racing away from defender Sami Kapanen, Mogilny went to his forehand and beat goaltender Robert Esche on the stick side.

Mogilny's goal came a game after he missed on a similar breakaway in Toronto's 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Sunday. The play-making forward snapped his stick in frustration after he missed a second scoring chance

All that changed Wednesday for the Maple Leafs.

Ponikarovsky scored 1:30 later by deflecting in Bryan McCabe's pass, and Toronto went up 3-0 when Kilger redirected in a bouncing puck from a bad angle at 15:11. It was the first playoff goal for Ponikarovsky in 20 games.

It was an impressive offensive performance from the Maple Leafs, who had been sputtering all postseason. Besides managing just a goal in each of its first two games against Philadelphia, Toronto had scored just 16 goals in nine games.

The Flyers looked sloppy.

Kilger scored after Todd Fedoruk misplayed Vladimir Malakhov's pass inside the Philadelphia end. The puck bounced off Fedoruk's skate and directly to Ron Francis, who fed a pass to Tie Domi. Domi's shot from just inside the blue line deflected off Malakhov's stick to a wide-open Kilger, who was parked to the right of the net.

The Flyers dominated the first period, outshooting Toronto 8-3, but were foiled by Ed Belfour. His best save came when he got his pad on Danny Markov's point shot, deflected by Keith Primeau in front.

Primeau also had a scoring chance, but his redirection of Donald Brashear's centering pass hit the crossbar.

Belfour finished with 18 saves.

Notes: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union head Bob Goodenow attended the game together, a day before they are to conduct labor talks. The negotiating session will be the first since Oct. 1. ... Joe Nieuwendyk, leading Toronto with five playoff goals, missed his second straight game with a back injury. RW Wade Belak made his debut this postseason, replacing Tom Fitzgerald. ... Zhamnov had an assist on Amonte's goal to extend his point streak to eight games (four goals, seven assists).

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