Colorado posts no-frills win to tie series

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- After a week of topsy-turvy, high-octane
hockey, the Colorado Avalanche got back to basics: punishing
defense, superstar scoring and workmanlike victories.

Captain Joe Sakic scored two goals, and Patrick Roy stopped 19
shots as the Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Wednesday
night, evening their Western Conference semifinal series at two
games apiece.

The defending Stanley Cup champions always seem to fix their
problems just in time to avoid trouble, both in the regular season
and the playoffs. Entering Game 4, the series had been an offensive
circus, with 29 combined goals and far too much end-to-end play for
either team's comfort.

So the Avalanche buckled down, holding a players' meeting on
Tuesday in which they emphasized their commitment to their defense,
which was the NHL's best during the regular season.

It showed in a victory that was never in much doubt.

"We had a lot more responsibility and toughness in our end in
this one," Sakic said. "These two teams are pretty even.
Whichever team has got the jump and the little edges is going to

The Avalanche's defensemen, who provided so little support for
Roy in Game 3, were rock-solid, while their offensive stars got the
big points expected of them.

Rob Blake opened the scoring with his fifth goal in three games.
Peter Forsberg, the playoffs' leading scorer, and Alex Tanguay had
two assists apiece as Colorado won at the Shark Tank for the sixth
time in seven games since January 2000.

"We saw Avalanche hockey tonight," Colorado coach Bob Hartley
said. "I thought it was a great effort from Patrick down to
basically everyone in the lineup."

Colorado got this victory with a defensive tenacity lacking
during San Jose's two wins in the series. Roy was rarely tested in
winning his 143rd career playoff game.

"They're not the best defensive team in hockey for nine months
and then all of a sudden lose it," Sharks coach Darryl Sutter
said. "We have to be a little more determined in that area, and we
have to make sure that we're as good as they are."

Game 5 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday night in Denver,
with Game 6 Monday in San Jose.

A sellout crowd at the Shark Tank never had much opportunity to
get excited during the Avalanche's methodical win, which ended with
38½ scoreless minutes before Milan Hejduk's empty-net goal.

Teemu Selanne scored his fourth goal in four games for the
Sharks. A breakaway goal in the first period by Patrick Marleau was
disallowed, and Colorado ended Marleau's eight-game points streak.

"I think we knew it was going to be a more low-scoring game,
but they got their goals, and we didn't," Selanne said. "This was
a good lesson for us. We have to be ready right away."

Roy improved to 8-0 in playoff games after allowing six goals or
more with the Avalanche. His counterpart, Evgeni Nabokov, stopped
21 shots but was left helpless by San Jose's defensive mistakes on
Colorado's first two goals.

For the second straight game, Blake gave the Avalanche an early
lead, this time on a breakaway goal 5:26 in. Blake sat out Game 1
of the series with an injury, but scored two goals in each of the
next two games.

"When you're getting a lot of chances like I am, you've got to
bury them," Blake said. "I'm not going to get all the great
opportunities, so I don't want to waste the ones that come my

The Sharks thought they had evened the score on Marleau's
breakaway less than nine minutes in. In fact, the whistle had blown
for a Colorado penalty several seconds earlier, but wasn't heard by
Marleau or Roy above the crowd noise.

Colorado quickly added another score on Sakic's fifth goal of
the playoffs. San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan made critical errors
on both goals, with Blake streaking behind him and Sakic muscling
past him for a quick shot between Nabokov's pads.

"That's not the way you want to start a game, that's for
sure," Hannan said. "Any goal is going to cost you in the
playoffs. Any mistake you make is going to be magnified."

Selanne scored by redirecting captain Owen Nolan's shot during a
power play in the opening minute of the second period, but Sakic
put it out of reach early in the third period when Nabokov allowed
Sakic's fairly innocent shot to slide under him.

Game notes
Forsberg's three-game goal-scoring streak ended, but he
extended his points streak to five games. ... Colorado has won nine
of its last 15 road playoff games dating back to last season. ...
Late in the first period, Nolan checked Darius Kasparaitis so hard
at center ice that Nolan's stick broke in two. In the third, Nolan
plastered Kasparaitis again, this time behind Colorado's net. ...
Roy got his second assist of the playoffs on Blake's goal.