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Brunette’s OT Goal Leads Avs Past Stars

May 1, 2006

DALLAS (AP) _ The Colorado Avalanche entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, with 10 losses in 16 games. Their goaltender had only one win in his five starts since joining the team.

Now, Jose Theodore and the Avalanche are getting ready for the second round of the Western Conference playoffs _ again.

Theodore stopped 50 shots, 11 in overtime, and Colorado beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 when Andrew Brunette scored on a rebound 13:55 into the extra period Sunday to wrap up the first-round series in five games.

``We knew where we were,″ defenseman John-Michael Liles said. ``When you get great goaltending from Jose, get a few bounces and get Joe (Sakic) and Bruno stepping up, it helps a huge amount. It turned out well for us. We’ve got to keep it going.″

With their third overtime victory in the series, the Avalanche advanced past the first round for the eighth time the last 10 playoff appearances. They won their NHL-best 18th series since moving to Denver in 1995.

Sakic scored his 81st career playoff goal, the most among active players, when he knocked in a bouncing puck with 2 seconds left in the second period to put Colorado up 2-1.

It was the captain’s shot in overtime that Marty Turco blocked before Brunette scooped the puck over the sprawling goalie while Mike Modano made a desperate sliding attempt to stop it.

``The timing of each goal was crucial in the series,″ coach Joel Quenneville said.

In Game 2, Brett Clark scored with 2:04 left in regulation and Sakic scored his NHL-record seventh playoff overtime goal. Brunette had a goal with 57 seconds left to tie Game 3 before Alex Tanguay scored only 69 seconds into the extra period.

In other games, it was: San Jose 2, Nashville 1; Buffalo 3, Philadelphia 0; and Carolina 2, Montreal 1.

The Stars had 112 points in the regular season, their most since 114 in 1999 when they won the Stanley Cup. But they haven’t been past the second round of the playoffs since 2000, when they won their second straight seven-game conference finals series against Colorado.

After the game ended, Turco stood motionless in his net for several minutes, staring down at the ice. It was the same result as 2004: losing a first-round series to the Avs in five games.

``I’m still in shock. This wasn’t the plan,″ said Turco, who had 27 saves. ``It hurts.″

The Stars outshot Colorado 11-4 in the extra period, including seven shots during the frame’s only power play. But Dallas couldn’t solve Theodore, who has already played as many games in the playoffs for Colorado as he did in the regular season.

``He’s the reason we’re standing here with smiles on our face, really. He was unbelievable,″ Sakic said. ``I mean, they could’ve ended it so many times _ not only in overtime, but in the third.″

Theodore came to Colorado in a trade deadline deal March 8 for David Aebischer, the goalie who beat the Stars in the 2004 playoffs. Theodore was recovering from a fractured right heel when he arrived, then was 1-3-1 down the stretch.

``It didn’t take long until I felt comfortable,″ Theodore said. ``But obviously until you get a couple of games in and they see that you’re really committed and you really want to win, that’s the main thing.″

Theodore is the second high-profile goaltender that has gone from Montreal to the Avs. The other was Patrick Roy, who became the winningest goalie in NHL history with Colorado and won two more Stanley Cups after being acquired during the 1995-96 season.

Modano had to be helped off the ice midway through the third period when he took a hard hit to his head from Clark, on a play when no penalty was called. The Stars captain returned for overtime to a huge ovation, but couldn’t save the Stars.

Bill Guerin, a Massachusetts native and Boston Red Sox fan, tied the game for the Stars at 2 with 17:13 left in regulation when he poked the puck away from Kurt Sauer.

Guerin reminded his teammates of 2004, when the Red Sox overcame an 0-3 deficit against the New York Yankees and went on to win the World Series.

But the Stars couldn’t become only the third NHL team to come back from an 0-3 deficit to win.

``This is the best team I’ve been on that lost,″ Guerin said. ``Right now, it all seems like such a waste.″

Sharks 2, Predators 1

Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier each scored power-play goals, and the Sharks eliminated the Predators from the playoffs.

Nashville had been hoping to tap what had been the NHL’s best home-ice advantage in the regular season to force Game 6 on Tuesday night in San Jose. But the Predators couldn’t sell out the arena, and their best wasn’t enough on a night when Marleau _ San Jose’s captain _ scored his postseason-best seventh goal.

The Predators refused to go away easily. Paul Kariya scored his second goal of the series on a power play at 11:06 of the third, pulling Nashville to 2-1. Nashville got another man advantage, hoping to tie it.

But Vesa Toskala smothered the only power-play shot by Marek Zidlicky with 4:21 left, and the Sharks ran out the clock even as the Predators pulled their goalie in the final minute for the extra attacker.

Sabres 3, Flyers 0

Rookie Ryan Miller stopped 24 shots to record his first playoff shutout, and Tim Connolly and J.P. Dumont scored power-play goals and had an assist each in Buffalo’s win.

Maxim Afinogenov also scored, helping the Sabres bounce back from two road losses and take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.

Game 6 is Tuesday at Philadelphia in a series in which the home team has won every game.

Peter Forsberg, who had four goals and four assists in four games, was held without a point for the first time.

Hurricanes 2, Canadiens 1

Rookie Cam Ward stopped 30 shots to win his third straight start, and Eric Staal and Matt Cullen had power-play goals to help Carolina take 3-2 lead in the series with Montreal.

In each of the first four games, the visiting team came out on top, with three going beyond regulation. Carolina became the first host to take a two-goal lead before the Canadiens rallied, and now the teams head back to Montreal for Game 6.

Alex Kovalev brought the Canadiens to 2-1 in the final minute of the second.

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