NHL Playoffs Roundup
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ After a decade of frustration, Theo Fleury finally made it past the first round of the NHL playoffs again.
He could hardly contain his excitement.
Fleury, acquired from Calgary in a late February trade, had a goal and two assists as the Colorado Avalanche wrapped up their first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks with a 3-2 overtime victory Monday night.
Rookie Milan Hejduk scored 13:12 into overtime as the Avalanche, who won all three games in San Jose, moved on to a second-round series with two-time defending champion Detroit. Colorado won the series 4-2 over the Sharks.
Fleury, who scored the game’s opening goal and assisted on the other two Colorado goals, punched his fists in the air after Hejduk’s third goal of the playoffs _ two in overtime.
And when Fleury reached the locker room, he ripped off his uniform as though he was ripping away years of frustration. After winning the Stanley Cup when Fleury was a rookie in 1988-89, Calgary has failed to make it past the first round since _ and didn’t even reach the playoffs the last two years Fleury was there.
``I haven’t been out of the first round in 10 years. It feels unbelievable,″ said Fleury, who scored two goals in Colorado’s win in Game 5 on Saturday. ``It feels great that I’m able to practice tomorrow for another series.″
After Colorado survived a four-minute penalty early in the overtime, Hejduk slid the rebound of Joe Sakic’s shot past Sharks goalie Mike Vernon for the winner.
``The situation was a 3-on-3. The puck was on the boards, I was in the middle. I went to the net and looked for the rebound,″ Hejduk said. ``The puck came right to my stick. It was the perfect rebound.″
The two remaining series will conclude with two Game 7s tonight, with Pittsburgh at New Jersey and St. Louis at Phoenix.
Already advancing to the second round were defending champion Detroit, regular-season points leader Dallas, Buffalo, Toronto and Boston.
The Avalanche opened the Sharks series with two wins at San Jose. The Sharks rebounded to win the next two games in Denver to even the series, but the Avalanche finally won at home Saturday to take a 3-2 advantage in the series.
``We played well, but it wasn’t good enough. We didn’t win a game at home. We took it to them the first 10 minutes (of overtime) and then they took over,″ said Jeff Friesen, who gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead with 8:09 left in the third period.
But Friesen was penalized a minute later, and Sandis Ozolinsh slapped a shot past Vernon to tie the game 2-2 with 6:31 remaining in the third period.
``We had a chance to win it and didn’t. It’s disappointing when you come that close against a hockey team like that,″ said Friesen, who assisted on Bill Houlder’s goal late in the second period. ``We had them, and then we let them get away.″
On Monday night, the Avalanche were right where they’re most comfortable _ on the road, in overtime in the playoffs.
Colorado went 23-14-4 on the road this season, and won all three of the games in San Jose in a series that was delayed three days by the school shooting at Columbine High School in suburban Denver.
And the Avalanche have now won nine of their last 12 overtime playoff games _ including both of the overtime games in the series against San Jose.
Vernon had 30 saves for the Sharks. Patrick Roy, who got his 103rd playoff victory, made 27 saves for the Avalanche.
But the Avalanche know they can’t count on winning all their games on the road in the next round of the playoffs.
``We lost two games at home,″ Roy said. ``If we do that against Detroit, we’re in trouble.″