Avs upset Sharks, take 1-0 series lead
That thud you heard around 11PM Wednesday night was the collective stomachs of the San Jose Sharks and their fans dropping to the ground as Chris Stewart scored with 50 seconds remaining in the game to give the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 victory in Game One of their first round playoff series.
With the road victory, the Avs neutralize the Sharks home ice advantage in the series.
The Avalanche set the tone for the game early in the first period, starting when Chris Stewart took a hooking penalty 28 seconds in. The Sharks pressured the Avs throughout the power play, taking six shots, but the Avalanche and goalie Craig Anderson were up to the task, and gained momentum from the successful penalty kill. Despite the early 6-0 shots deficit, the first period ended scoreless with the Avs trailing the Sharks by only one shot, 12-11.
Colorado took the play to San Jose in the second period, outshooting the Sharks 12-3. They got the games first goal on a power play at 12:38. Matt Duchene’s pass out to the right point set up John-Micheal Liles, who beat Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov with a slap shot to make the score 1-0.
The Sharks tied the game at 7:59 of the third period. Ryan Clowe turned and fired a shot from the right face off circle that flew past a screened Craig Anderson to even the score at 1-1.
With one minute to play, it appeared that the game was heading for overtime. A loose puck got sent to Chris Stewart, who was off to the side of the Sharks goal. From behind the goal line he threw the puck to the front of the net where it deflected off the Sharks Rob Blake past Nabokov with 50 seconds remaining for the game winner.
Craig Anderson was strong in the Avalanche goal, coming up big when he needed to, especially early in the game when the Sharks were forcing the play. He stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 28 of 30.
The Avs victory was one of three for the lower seeded teams on the first night of the playoffs. In Eastern Conference play Ottawa beat Pittsburgh 5-4 and Philadelphia defeated New Jersey 2-1.
In the other Western Conference game Phoenix beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2.
Avs-Sharks Game Two will be Friday at 8:30 PM MDT at the HP Pavilion.
-Avs rookie Matt Duchene returned to action after missing the last two regular season games with an “upper body injury” His assist on Liles goal was his first NHL playoff point.
-T.J. Galiardi also picked up his first NHL playoff point when he assisted on Stewart’s game winner.
Bruce Wilkie is a Colorado semi-native, having moved to Denver in 1971. He has worked with pro and college hockey teams since 1975 and now covers the Avs for thehockeywriters.com.