Originally created 05/22/01

Avalanche 2, Blues 1, OT



DENVER -- Joe Sakic sent Colorado to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in six seasons when he scored on a rebound 24 seconds into overtime to give the Avalanche a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Monday night.

The goal came while Blues defenseman Alexander Khavanov served a four-minute penalty for high-sticking, called with 2:16 left in regulation.

Colorado, which won the Stanley Cup in 1996, made it out of the Western Conference finals for the first time in three seasons. The Avalanche lost Game 7 of the finals to the Dallas Stars in 1999 and 2000 but finished St. Louis off in five games.

After failing to get a shot during the power play late in regulation, the Avalanche wasted no time against rookie goalie Brent Johnson in overtime.

Sakic crashed the net on Rob Blake's shot from the right circle and backhanded the puck past Johnson, a final-hour replacement for struggling goalie Roman Turek. Johnson, making his first career playoff start, finished with 34 saves.

The Avalanche, the NHL's top team during the regular season, will play defending champion New Jersey or Pittsburgh in the finals. New Jersey leads its series 3-1 with Game 5 set for Tuesday night.

Johnson, Colorado's fifth-round draft pick in 1995, was a final-hour replacement for Turek, who played his way out of the lineup by allowing 14 goals in the first four games.

The change nearly inspired the Blues, who led for just 52 seconds the entire series, but the penalty on Khavanov came back to haunt St. Louis. Colorado finished 2-for-7 on the power play Monday night and scored seven times with a man-advantage in the series.

Patrick Roy handled things in the net for the Avalanche, finishing with 28 saves, including several big ones in the third period as he continued one of his best playoff runs in 16 seasons.

In a three-minute span, Roy stopped Pierre Turgeon, Keith Tkachuk, Sean Hill, Pavol Demitra and Scott Young to preserve a 1-1 tie. Demitra raised his hand to his head in disbelief and nearly slammed his stick to the glass after Roy gloved his point-blank shot at the left post with 11 minutes left.

Johnson, who has played 211 fewer playoff games than Roy, was equally impressive, stopping Ray Bourque on a sprawling save with 5:28 left. He also forced Blake to shoot wildly on a good chance in the slot 30 seconds later.

St. Louis' penalty killers then forced overtime after Khavanov was called for a double minor after hitting Milan Hejduk with a high stick with 2:16 left.

The Avalanche looked disoriented during the power play, failing to get a shot away before the end of regulation, and the teams went to overtime for the third straight game.

After being outshot in each of the first four games, Colorado held a 20-11 shot advantage after Hejduk beat Johnson between the legs on a power play at 11:20 of the second. Hejduk leads NHL playoff scorers with seven goals and 13 assists.

The Blues tied it 2:11 later when Bryce Salvador scored from 10 feet out on a pass from Cory Stillman. St. Louis forward Jamal Mayers made the play possible just seconds earlier by beating Colorado to a loose puck to prevent an icing call.

The hustle exemplified St. Louis' desperation as the Blues pulled out all the stops to avoid elimination. The strategy began when coach Joel Quenneville benched Turek in favor of Johnson less than an hour before the game.

Johnson, who played 83 seconds in Game 4, responded by shutting out Colorado in the first period. It was the first time in the series that the Avalanche did not score in the game's first 20 minutes.

Notes:

Avalanche C Peter Forsberg attended his first game since emergency surgery to remove his ruptured spleen on May 10. His recovery is going well, but Forsberg still expects to miss the rest of the playoffs. ... Colorado D Jon Klemm did not play after injuring his right knee in Game 4. Bryan Muir was activated as the team's sixth defenseman. ... St. Louis D Sean Hill left the game at 10:52 of the first after being hit in the right leg while blocking a shot. He returned in the second period. ... The Blues fell short in their attempt to make their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in 31 years.