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Avalanche Scores Clean Victory in Opener

NHL playoffs: Sakic gets goal and assist in third period and Roy stops 34 Detroit shots as Colorado wins, 2-1.

May 16, 1997|From Associated Press

DENVER — Joe Sakic put a charge into a game slowed by a power outage.

Sakic had a goal and an assist in the third period, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1, Thursday night in the opener of the Western Conference finals that featured--surprise!--two well-behaved teams.

Patrick Roy stopped 34 shots as the Avalanche posted its 11th straight home playoff victory. Roy has given up only seven goals in Colorado's seven home playoff games this year, and extended his own NHL record for playoff victories to 95.

"Patty stood on his head and gave us a chance to win," said Mike Ricci, who scored the deciding goal at 6:13 of the third period.

Colorado was outshot, 35-19, and the NHL's most effective power play went 0 for 5.

"I don't think we played our best game of the playoffs tonight," Roy said, "but we found a way to win."

Detroit's Brendan Shanahan broke a scoreless tie at 1:13 of the third period, taking a pass from behind the net by Martin Lapointe and scoring from the left circle.

Sakic countered 27 seconds later. Eric Lacroix got the puck and, as he was being upended, passed it to Sakic in the left circle. Sakic beat Mike Vernon at 1:40 for his fifth goal of the postseason.

Colorado got the winner when Sakic brought the puck down the left side, passed to Claude Lemieux on the right side, and Lemieux found Ricci, who scored from the slot.

"Joey and Claude made great passes," Ricci said. "I just tapped it into the net."

Detroit pulled Vernon with 55 seconds left and had several chances, but the Avalanche survived the flurry.

"I'm proud of the way we played, but I'm not satisfied with the result," Detroit Coach Scotty Bowman said. "I thought it was a typical first game of a series, with both teams feeling each other out."

The first period featured nine penalties--five by Colorado--but none of the bloody skirmishes that marred the most recent meeting between the rivals, on March 26 in Detroit. Referee Terry Gregson kept a tight rein on the action throughout.

Colorado had a two-man advantage midway through the first period but, despite sending passes across the crease several times, had no serious scoring chances.

Roy, who had 10 saves in the period, stopped Vyacheslav Fetisov on a hard shot from the right circle, and defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh prevented Kirk Maltby from scoring on the rebound.

Vernon had eight saves in the period, including a glove save against Rene Corbet. Colorado's Peter Forsberg, who had missed the previous two games because of a concussion, was wide on a partial breakaway during a Detroit power play late in the period.

Neither team scored on two power-play opportunities each in the second period. Colorado was outshot, 13-2, in the period, but Roy was untouchable.

Several sections of the ice surface became soft during the second period--the result of a power outage at McNichols Arena that occurred 30 minutes before the game, but thanks to restoration of one of two ice chillers that cool the surface, the ice was normal for the third period.

Sakic said the condition of the ice was not a factor.

"It's something both teams had to deal with," he said. "The puck was bouncing all over the place."

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