Avalanche survive Vernon, Sharks to remain unbeaten
AARON J. LOPEZ
Oct. 10, 1997
DENVER (AP) _ The Colorado Avalanche couldn't get past Mike Vernon last May, and it ended their bid for a second straight Stanley Cup championship.
Vernon, then with Detroit, allowed just 12 goals in six games as the Red Wings eliminated the Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals. Now that he's changed teams, it seems to have changed Colorado's luck.
Joe Sakic and Valeri Kamensky each had a goal and an assist Thursday night as the Avalanche remained unbeaten with a 3-2 win over Vernon and the San Jose Sharks.
``That was one of the best games I've seen him play against us.'' Sakic said of Vernon. ``Obviously he played great in the playoffs last year, but we didn't test him like we did (Thursday). We had a few scoring chances and he came up huge.''
So did Colorado goalie Patrick Roy, who had his 142-minute shutout streak stopped, but finished with 29 saves.
``Patrick is a great goaltender, and it seems like we've always been battling each other,'' Vernon said. ``We've always had a rivalry wherever we've been. Tonight was just another battle.''
The Avalanche (4-0-1) threatened to turn the game into a blowout with a flurry of chances in the second period, but Vernon held them off long enough for San Jose's offense to finally come around.
Blanked by Ottawa on Tuesday, the Sharks were scoreless for 127 minutes, 18 seconds until Shean Donovan broke through 2:57 into the third period to cut Colorado's lead to 2-1. Donovan missed a breakaway chance just seconds earlier.
``I was happy to get the second chance for the goal,'' Donovan said. ``I got us back in the game, but it wasn't enough.''
Rene Corbet countered 2:18 later when he picked up a loose puck at the San Jose blue line and beat Vernon to the glove side for his first goal of the season, making it 3-1.
``His bottom line is the work ethic he brings forth every night. He's contagious,'' Colorado coach Marc Crawford said of Corbet. ``You see him out there and he's got his legs going all the time. He's in constant motion.''
Mike Rathje scored his first goal in 72 games to trim the lead to 3-2 with 5:11 remaining, but the Avalanche held on for their fourth straight win.
``There's no doubt about it, they outworked us,'' Roy said. ``We had a good result, but I don't think we should necessarily be happy with the effort we put on the ice. It certainly could be better.''
Roy's goaltending and Colorado's penalty killing units can't get much better.
The Avalanche, who held San Jose scoreless on 16 power plays in five games last season, killed five more chances Thursday to run their penalty-killing streak to 25.
``Our guys are very aware and they're reading well,'' Crawford said. ``They're making it difficult for the opposition to keep the puck in, to keep any sustained pressure against us.''
Sakic scored his second goal of the season 14:13 into the first period when he crossed in front of the net and beat Vernon with the identical move later used by Corbet.
``You want to get off to a good start all the time. It doesn't matter when,'' Sakic said.
Roy started the breakaway to earn his 30th career assist _ and his first since Dec. 4, 1996.