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.
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.
The Avalanche were much better at creating traffic in front to keep Nabokov from having a clear view, but the Sharks were just as good at blocking their shots in the first period.
Nabokov, of course, was there for the ones that did get through, turning away 10 in the period. The best came midway when he got his stick down to stop Dan Hinote on a breakaway.
Aebischer wasn’t bad, either. He stopped 13 shots in the first period, including a sliding skate save on Korolyuk’s breakaway in the final minute.
Colorado’s Matthew Barnaby had the best chance in an otherwise dull second period, but he hit the post from just outside the crease and was stuffed by Nabokov on the rebound.
“The game could have gone either way,” San Jose’s Todd Harvey said. “The goalies played exceptionally well. I thought we had as many chances as theydid. They got the bounce at the end. That’s the way overtime goes.”
Colorado played without top defenseman Rob Blake, who sustained an upper body injury early in Game 3. … San Jose was without LW Scott Thornton due to a lower body injury he received early in Game 3. … The game was stopped with 1:37 left in regulation when the puck got stuck under San Jose C Mike Ricci. … The 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only teams to win a series after trailing 3-0. … Maurice Richard isthe career leader with six overtime goals in the postseason.