Sharks 5 Avalanche 2
DENVER — The San Jose Sharks took the first step toward shedding their label of post-season underachievers.
Joe Pavelski scored two goals, including the tiebreaking tally midway through the third period, to lift the Sharks to a series-clinching 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night in Game 6.
Pavelski and Dan Boyle scored 1:29 apart in the final period, propelling top-seeded San Jose into the next round. The Sharks will have to wait to find out who they will face in the Western Conference semifinals.
Devin Setoguchi and Douglas Murray added empty-net goals in the final minute after the Avalanche pulled goalie Craig Anderson for an extra skater.
Marek Svatos and Brandon Yip had goals for eighth-seeded Colorado.
The Sharks have been known for early playoff exits, failing to move past the second round in their four previous post-season trips. They had the best mark in the NHL last season, but fell to Anaheim in a first-round flameout.
The post-season woes were all the Sharks heard about leading up to the series with Colorado.
When the Sharks fell behind 2-1 in the series, following a fluke overtime goal that defenceman Boyle put into his own net off a deflection, the spotlight and scrutiny intensified. But the Sharks turned around their fortunes, capturing the final three games.
Pavelski gave them the lead 47 seconds into the game, but Svatos tied it in the second period.
Yip then gave Colorado a brief lead, but Boyle made it 2-2 with a slapshot over Anderson’s glove. Pavelski was credited with an assist.
Moments later, Pavelski scored the winner.
Evgeni Nabokov was steady in net all night, but not very busy as he stopped just 16 shots.
Anderson finished with 29 saves. He has faced the most shots of any goalie in the post-season and made the most saves. He also led in both categories during the regular season.
In an effort to ignite the offence, the Avalanche juggled their lines. Matt Hendricks and Chris Stewart moved up to join Matt Duchene. Later in the game, Svatos replaced Hendricks and scored his first goal of the series.
The Avalanche struggled to find the net all series. They scored five goals in an overtime loss in Game 2, but had just six in the other five contests.
Part of the difficulty had to do with a rash of recent injuries.
The Avalanche were without Peter Mueller the entire series because of a head injury sustained when he took a hit along the boards against the Sharks on April 4.
Mueller skated Saturday morning, but wasn’t ready to play.
Colorado also was without Milan Hejduk, who was the team’s third-leading goal scorer in the regular season. He was sidelined for the final three games with an upper body injury.
Even though the Sharks had the safety net of a Game 7 at home, they desperately wanted to end the series in the Mile High City.
“To show some killer instinct and put a team away while we had a chance,” forward Ryane Clowe said.