Two overtime losses later and the Sharks are squeezing their
sticks a little tighter.
"We have to win it as soon as possible," Sharks center Alyn McCauley said. "Give them credit for coming back and winning two
games, but ... we have to get it done in Colorado."
San Jose seemed to be cruising to its first trip to the
conference finals after winning the series' first three games by a
combined score of 10-3. The Sharks controlled the flow through the
neutral zone, it top line was scoring from all angles and Evgeni Nabokov turned away nearly everything the Avalanche threw at him.
But San Jose hasn't been a very good front-runner.
Instead of pressuring Colorado and trying to put the series
away, the Sharks have been tentative on offense and sloppy in their
own end. San Jose lost Game 4 after Mike Rathje couldn't handle a
puck out of the corner, then blew a 1-0 lead in the third period of
Game 5 by sitting back and letting the Avalanche skate freely into
the offensive zone.
Nabokov has been superb throughout the playoffs, but even he's going to crack when a talented team like Colorado gets so many good chances.
"We didn't play the way we should have in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs," Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren said.
"We don't usually sit back and wait for other teams to do things.
It's very surprising, but it happens, and we can't look back, we
can't hang our heads."
But the Sharks have given Colorado the last thing they wanted
the Avalanche to have: confidence.
Colorado beat the Sharks 1-0 in Game 4, followed that with
Saturday's 2-1 victory in San Jose and can even the series at home
Now it's starting to feel a whole lot like 2002, when the
Avalanche won two one-goal games to rally from a 3-2 series deficit
and deny the Sharks a trip to the conference final. Colorado still
needs two more wins to become the third team to win a series after
trailing 3-0, but the pressure is starting to shift.
"Like I said after Game 4, if we could win this one, it puts a
lot of pressure on them," Avalanche captain Joe Sakic said. "Our
building's going to be pretty loud. It's going to be exciting to
play Game 6 and hopefully we can get the same results."
They might if their best players keep it up.
He's been positionally sound and spectacular when needed to
shift the goalie matchup in Colorado's favor. Aebischer has allowed
two goals in three games and looked a lot Roy did in 2001, when he
allowed three goals the final four games to help the Avalanche beat
Los Angeles in seven games.
Sakic has added to his reputation as a clutch scorer, scoring
the winners in both games to match Maurice Richard's NHL record of
seven overtime playoff goals.
Peter Forsberg has dished out some punishment of his own after being frustrated by the Sharks' physical approach early in the
series, and had a nifty, no-look pass to set up Sakic's second goal
in Game 5.
The Avalanche have the momentum and their sights set on making
"Everybody in here is confident we can do it," Aebischer said.
"We're just going to have to do the same things we did the last
two games -- work hard. That's pretty much all we can do."