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Sharks advance to Conference Finals
Sharks win series 4-2
5/4/04 - by Mike Lee

Exhale. It's over. The Sharks finally landed the knockout blow they've been seeking for the past three games, with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Tuesday night. After getting hit with a couple of desperation blows in games 4 and 5, the Sharks regrouped and returned to their no-nonsense style of play. By winning the series 4 games to 2, the Sharks earn a spot in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history. Evgeni Nabokov was spectacular again, turning aside 28 of 29 shots to lead San Jose. Vincent Damphousse, Marcel Goc and Jonathan Cheechoo all scored 2nd period goals for the Sharks.

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1 2 3 T
SJ 0 3 0 3
COL 0 1 0 1
1st period - NONE
2nd period - S.J, V. DAMPHOUSSE (5) (N. DIMITRAKOS), 01:34 S.J, M. GOC (1) (C. BROWN, K. MCLAREN), 08:59 S.J, J. CHEECHOO (3) (M. RICCI), 12:03 COL, M. HEJDUK (5) (P. KARIYA, J. SAKIC), 17:34
3rd period - NONE
1st period - S.J, J. CHEECHOO, 12:31 - Boarding S.J, M. RATHJE, 15:26 - Interference - Obstruction COL, S. KONOWALCHUK, 15:33 - Hi stick
2nd period - COL, A. NIKOLISHIN, 01:56 - Hi stick S.J, S. HANNAN, 04:56 - Roughing COL, P. FORSBERG, 04:56 - Roughing S.J, S. HANNAN, 10:01 - Holding S.J, M. RICCI, 15:48 - Tripping S.J, Y. NABOKOV, 17:00 - Delay of game
3rd period - S.J, V. DAMPHOUSSE, 18:49 - Hi stick
  Shots Saves
SJ - Nabokov 29 28
COL - Aebischer 33 30
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 12 13 8 33
COL 2 17 10 29
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 2
COL 1 of 6
3 Stars of the Game
Scott Hannan
Vincent Damphousse
Evgeni Nabokov
After losing the last two games on overtime stunners by Joe Sakic, the Sharks were eager to take care of business early in Game 6. San Jose opened the contest with guns blazing, outshooting the Avalanche 12-2 in the opening period.

Colorado netminder David Aebischer kept the Avalanche close by turning aside all 12 San Jose shots, and got lucky on an empty net chance that rang off the post midway through the period.

The wheels fell off of Colorado's season in the 2nd period, even though they outshot San Jose 17 to 13 in the period. Damphousse continued his hot streak with his 5th goal of the playoffs just 1:34 into the middle frame. The Shark's senior statesman lifted a shot over Aebischer, after a Niko Dimitrakos shot bounced right to Damphousse just outside the left post.

Goc, a Sharks rookie who made his NHL debut in Game 5 of the Sharks first round series with St Louis, made his second career NHL game even more memorable. The German forward deflected a shot by Curtis Brown past Aebischer for his first NHL goal. Kyle McLaren sprung the play with a pass up ice to Brown who broke in on the Colorado net with Goc and Mark Smith in front.

Brown snapped a shot just as Goc was cutting toward the net. Goc's stick blade and the puck intersected at the right moment, causing a perfect trajectory change on the flying rubber. The tally turned out to be the game winner and series clinching goal.

With the momentum clearly in hand, the Sharks reacted to the lesson they learned about Colorado tenacity in the series by keeping the pressure on the Avalanche. Both offenses opened things up a bit, which eventually spelled disaster for Colorado.

Quick counter attacks resulted in Goc's goal, and would play a role in a score by Cheechoo three minutes later. San Jose took advantage of Colorado, who was pressing on the power play after Scott Hannan was sent off for holding at the midway point of the game. Cheechoo and Mike Ricci grabbed a Colorado turnover as the penalty was expiring and raced up the ice with only Aebischer and Paul Kariya between them and the Colorado goal.

Cheechoo carried the puck in through the right circle, then forced Kariya to over commit by dragging a toe and slowing down his momentum in front of the Avalanche goal. As Aebischer tried to slide from his left to right, Cheechoo snapped home his 3rd goal of the playoffs past Aebischer's glove hand.

Former Sharks Temmu Selanne, who passed on an option to stay in San Jose last Summer, would play a hand in the scoring later in the period. Selanne drew a horrible penalty by diving just inside the Sharks blueline with just over four minutes remaining in the period. Nabokov would add to the predicament by flipping the puck out of play, earning an automatic delay of game penalty 1:12 later.

Colorado would take advantage of the ensuing 5-on-3 power play, when Milan Hejduk converted 34 seconds later. Kariya slipped a pass under Nabokov, that trickled through the crease to Hejduk on the far post. Nabokov made a valiant effort to stop Hejduk's shot, but it barely crossed over the goal line.

San Jose kept the pressure on Colorado early in the 3rd period, rather than sit back on their heels as they did in Game 5 last Saturday in San Jose. Alexander Korolyuk missed on an open net chance, when Andrei Nikolishin managed to get this stick on Korolyuk's backhand attempt from the slot.

Avalanche head coach Tony Granato pulled Aebischer with 3:30 to play, but the Sharks put the clamps on Colorado. Referee Rob Shick passed more charity when he sent Damphousse off for high sticking Peter Forsberg at 18:49. Even with the two man advantage, the most Colorado could muster was a John-Michael Liles slapshot from center ice as time expired.

Play of the Game
Goc's goal was a classic example of the team effort that the Sharks have put forth all season, but Cheechoo's goal was the prettiest of the evening. He demonstrated the patience of a seasoned veteran on the play, and brushed aside one of the best players in the NHL in Paul Kariya, before beating Aebischer with a shot that was destined for the back of the net.

The Turning Point
Scoring the first goal was huge, but Goc's goal gave the Sharks some breathing room. The Avalanche now had the burden of coming back from a two-goal lead, and they had to be wondering how much magic was left in Joe Sakic's stick after they used up two goal in Games 4 & 5. It's unlikely that many hockey players forget the first goal they ever scored, but what are the chances that Goc forgets his? How many rookies score their first NHL goal in the clinching game of a playoff series?

Save of the Game
Let's call this section "Saves of the Series" just once. The Sharks netminder finished the series with a 1.01 goals against average, and allowed no more than two goals in any game during the series, and seven goals total in six games.

Box Scores Do No Justice
Much of the post game attention was focused on Forsberg, who has hinted that this will be his last season in the NHL. Forsberg wants to return to his native Sweden to finish out his professional career with MoDo, who recently hired his father. Forsberg was mum on any final decision after the game.

Honorable Mention
Injuries go hand in hand with NHL playoff hockey, and Game 6 wasn't immune from the injury bug. Colorado skated without the services of Rob Blake and Alex Tanguay, although they did regain the services of Kariya, who missed the last 10 games with an ankle injury. Scott Thornton and Todd Harvey were scratched from the Sharks lineup with undisclosed injuries.

I've been waiting 10 years to beat that team, and we finally did it." - Mike Rathje

It's a pretty fun roll. For a while there, it got to be a roller coaster, but I'm really proud of our team. To all the Sharks fans, hoist one up for our boys tonight, because it was quite an effort out there." - Sharks head coach Ron Wilson

"We had an unbelievable lineup, and it's too bad it didn't work out. We didn't play good enough, and they beat us." - Peter Forsberg

"We played the perfect first period. Although the score was 0-0, we thought we wore them down and played the style we wanted to play. It was just a matter of time when we cracked their focus." - Vincent Damphousse

"I think that the problem is that when we get down one goal or so, we open up a little bit too much and too early. That's when they got the next goals. It's tough to come back from 3-0 against that team." - David Aebischer

"Any time you beat Colorado, it's huge. They have so much over there. You've accomplished something when you beat them anywhere." - Evgeni Nabokov

Right now, I really don't want to think about it. We'll see what happens over the summer. I'll just sit back and think about it later on." - Peter Forsberg

Marcel Goc scored his first career NHL goal

The Sharks advance to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

The series loss was the first time the Avalanche lost a Conference Semi-Final series.

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