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SJ poised to sweep series after 1-0 win in Game 3
Nabokov shuts out Colorado
4/26/04 - by Mike Lee

Rock solid all season, Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov set out to prove that his regular season was no fluke, and that last season's implosion was. He did that and more on Monday night, en route to a 1-0 shutout of the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Nabokov stopped all 33 of the shot that he faced to blank an opponent for the second time in the post season this season. More importantly it puts the Sharks clearly in the driver seat of San Jose's best of seven conference semi-finals series with the Avalanche. San Jose needs one more win to wrap up the series, which could come in the form of a sweep on Wednesday in Denver.

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1 2 3 T
SJ 0 0 1 1
COL 0 0 0 0
1st period - NONE
2nd period - NONE
3rd period - S.J, V. DAMPHOUSSE (3) (S. HANNAN, P. MARLEAU), 08:59
1st period - COL, P. FORSBERG, 09:03 - Interference S.J, J. MARSHALL, 14:14 - Roughing COL, S. KONOWALCHUK, 17:25 - Roughing S.J, W. PRIMEAU, 17:25 - Roughing
2nd period - S.J, J. MARSHALL, 04:24 - Tripping COL, J. LILES, 10:25 - Holding
3rd period - NONE
  Shots Saves
SJ - Nabokov 33 33
COL - Aebischer 17 16
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 6 6 5 17
COL 11 12 10 33
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 2
COL 0 of 2
3 Stars of the Game
Evgeni Nabokov
Vincent Damphousse
Scott Hannan
Nabokov didn't receive much offensive help from his teammates on Monday night, but he only needed Vincent Damphousse's 3rd period tally to help propel the Sharks to their fifth consecutive win in the postseason.

The Avalanche seemed resolved to turn their fortunes around at home by controlling the tempo for much of the game, but their hard luck offense continued to sputter. Not even a home sellout crowd could kick start the Colorado offense, which has only scored three goals in three games during the series.

Milan Hejduk came closest for Colorado, bouncing a shot off the crossbar midway through the opening period. Nabokov managed to get a glove on the shot, redirecting it enough to deny Hejduk of scoring a goal for the second consecutive game.

The Sharks played a conservative game, allowing the Avalanche to dictate the flow in all three periods. That could have been part game plan, part necessity after San Jose lost both Mike Ricci and Scott Thornton to injury in the 1st period.

Ricci returned to action midway through the 2nd period, but Thornton left the Sharks bench a player short the entire game after re-aggravating the knee injury he suffered in the St Louis series.

Colorado wasn't immune from injury either. Defenseman Rob Blake injured his knee while attempting to check Jonathan Cheechoo. The hit appeared to be standard practice, but replays showed Blake's knee buckling on impact.

The Sharks finally struck nine minutes into the final period when Vincent Damphousse scored his 3rd goal of the playoffs on a bank shot of Colorado goaltender David Aebischer. Damphousse carried a Scott Hannan pass deep into the Colorado zone and tried pounding the puck past Aebischer from close quarters, but the Avalanche netminder stuffed Damphousse's first scoring attempt.

Aebischer failed to control the rebound, which bounced right back to Damphousse who was sitting on the goal line just outside the left post. Damphousse gathered in the puck then wristed a shot off of Aebischer's back, bouncing it into the Colorado net. The shot was reminiscent of a shot Damphousse made against former Sharks netminder Mikka Kiprusoff on March 25th in San Jose.

Colorado was forced to turn up the heat in order to draw even, squeezing off six more shots over the final 11 minutes of regulation. Their best opportunity came on a partial break by former Sharks Teemu Selanne with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. Selanne raced around Jason Marshall on the left wing then bolted for the Sharks goal, but Nabokov stacked his pads to deny his former teammate.

Niko Dimitrakos and Patrick Marleau missed on a 2-on-1 break minutes later, but Aebischer denied the Sharks tandem. Dimitrakos barreled into the Avalanche netminder after tripping over a Colorado defender, drawing a chorus of boos from the Colorado faithful.

Avalanche head coach Tony Granato would pull Aebischer with a minute and a half remaining in regulation, but Colorado could only generate a single shot the remainder of the way.

Play of the Game
Toss up between Damphousse's goal and Nabokov's deflection of Hejduk's cross bar ringer. Damphousse provided the Sharks with all the scoring they would need, but without Nabokov's save, that goal ties the game at best. Consider a 1st period goal by Colorado would have also charged up the crowd and provide the Avalanche with momentum that could have snow balled. Colorado played not to lose the rest of the way out and it cost them.

The Turning Point
San Jose was out shot 23-12 through two periods, but it was Nabokov who positioned the Sharks to win it in the 3rd period with those 23 saves. The 3rd period was a nail biter, that neither team wanted to trip up on. The Sharks had the luxury of a two game lead in the series to fall back on as well, so they had less to lose than Colorado.

Save of the Game
Some will debate that Nabokov's save on Selanne in the 3rd period was the key to the Sharks victory, but the Hejduk stop may have won the Sharks the series. Honorable mention goes to Aebischer for his play on the 2-on-1 chance that Dimitrakos almost converted on late in the game.

Box Scores Do No Justice
If you don't think a three games to none lead is big in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, consider that only two teams in NHL history have ever rallied back from a 3-0 deficit. The New York Islanders did it against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1975 and the Toronto Maple Leafs came back to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in the 1942 Finals.

Honorable Mention
Teemu Selanne's benching only lasted one game, as the Finnish Flash returned to Colorado's lineup on Thursday. Granato benched Selanne after his sub-par play in Game 1. The Finnish Flash logged just over 14 minutes of ice time on 24 shifts. He recorded two shots on goal, including the partial breakaway that Nabokov stuffed in the 3rd period.

"I think Nabokov was great. He stole the win for us. You need that to go far in the playoffs." - Vincent Damphousse

"I just try to do my job, to take everything that comes to me. Without the guy's help, I wouldn't be able to do that." - Evgeni NAbokov

"The only thing we can worry about is the next game. I know it will be our best game and we will battle like crazy." - Tony Granato

"I was behind the net, so everybody kind of moved up to clear the front and I was able to bank it off I think that it was a little bit of a fluky goal." - Damphousse

"Nabokov was good this time. With all the chances we had, this could've easily been 5-1. We just have to keep pushing." - Teemu Selanne

Nabokov recorded his 7th win of the post season, moving him into the lead for goaltenders playoff statistics.

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