Colorado’s captain will look to build on yet another game-winning postseason performance Friday when the Avalanche continue their first-round series with the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.
Sakic scored 11:11 into overtime in Colorado’s 3-2 win in Game 1 on Wednesday. The OT goal was the eighth of his career in the playoffs, an NHL record.
The Avalanche’s 38-year-old center, who added an assist, also ranks first among active players with 83 goals and 180 points in the postseason.
“Joe’s a scorer. He’s a great player. He knows his way around the rink as good as anybody,” Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. “Sometimes you get the fortunate bounce, but you know where to go to get those fortunate bounces.”
Sakic posted career lows of 13 goals and 27 assists during the regular season, but missed 38 games because of a hernia. He has been playing on one-year contracts for the last few seasons and has not decided whether to return next fall.
Sakic has 10 goals and nine assists in 22 regular-season road games against the Wild, and recorded four goals and two assists in three road contests during Colorado’s seven-game loss to Minnesota in the 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals. The Avs blew a 3-1 series lead, but Sakic had six goals and three assists in the seven games.
“This guy has got nothing but dedication and heart towards winning,” said teammate Ryan Smyth, who also scored Wednesday. “He knows what it takes. … For how young he is, he’s still got it.”
Sakic won Stanley Cups with Colorado in 1996 and 2001, along with Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote. The three were reunited this season when Forsberg signed with the Avalanche on Feb. 25 and Foote was acquired in trade with Columbus a day later.
Neither Forsberg, third among active players with 63 postseason goals and second with 172 points, nor Foote recorded a point in Game 1. However, the Avalanche didn’t need much offense thanks to Jose Theodore, who made 28 saves and kept Minnesota scoreless in the first period despite the Wild outshooting Colorado 11-2.
Theodore improved to 6-0-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average over his last seven starts.
“Really, the only reason we were there was Theodore’s play. I thought Jose kept us in it, especially in that first period. He was unbelievable keeping it 0-0. He deserves real credit for keeping us in the game,” Sakic said.
“They nearly get a goal every time you make a mistake,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said, adding: “You really have to be focused on every detail.”
Minnesota failed to score at least three goals for the first time in eight games and lost for the first time in five home games against Colorado this season.
“The intensity was at its best. Players were at their best,” Lemaire said. “That’s the playoffs - you get a break here and there and you turn out to be in great shape.”
The Wild lost some of their depth up front when Mark Parrish was forced to leave in the second period with a head injury. They are already without defenseman Nick Schultz, who underwent an appendectomy earlier in the week.
“We know we can play these guys,” Koivu said. “We know it’s going to be tight all the way. That’s how it’s going to be. It’s going to be a fight. Every game, every shift. We just couldn’t finish the way we wanted.”