Up against the wall
Avalanche pushed to the brink by Devils
Updated: Tuesday June 05, 2001 12:29 AM
DENVER (AP) -- For the first time in 21 playoff games, the Colorado Avalanche found themselves skating in uncharted frozen waters.
A glance at the scoreboard early in the second period showed their first two-goal deficit of the postseason, and by game's end the big picture was even bleaker.
Colorado, the NHL's best team during the regular season, slipped to the edge of elimination Monday night after a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.
It was the Avalanche's second straight loss in the best-of-seven series, which they trail 3-2 heading back to New Jersey for Game 6.
"Are we dead? No," Colorado defenseman Greg de Vries said. "We're going to go in and win in New Jersey and then Game 7, anything happens."
Only once during the regular season did the Avalanche lose three in a row. They will have to stop another losing streak to prevent 40-year-old defenseman Ray Bourque from falling short of the Stanley Cup for the 22nd straight season.
"In my case, every game is a new life for us and you try to make the adjustments," Bourque said. "We're down 3-2 but it's a long way from being over. We have every intention of bringing it back to Denver for Game 7. There's no time to be frustrated."
In Game 4, the Avs had only themselves to blame after a lethargic effort. They had more energy Monday night, but New Jersey withstood every charge thanks to Colorado turnovers and a big game from goalie Martin Brodeur, who faced only 12 shots two nights earlier.
Twice Brodeur stopped what looked to be sure goals. His save against Eric Messier with 57 seconds left in the second period preserved the 3-1 lead and allowed the Devils to keep the momentum heading into the locker room.
"We had our chances," said forward Dan Hinote, who was stopped on consecutive shots five seconds apart in the third periods. "We've got to bury those. We didn't do it, so we'll come back next game and hopefully we'll take care of that."
Colorado also had its share of blunders, nearly giving up a short-handed goal during a second-period power play and allowing the Devils several fast-break chances. New Jersey's first two goals came on odd-man rushes.
"For a reason that I can't explain we got caught in way too many odd-man rushes," coach Bob Hartley said. "I think we gave up more odd-man rushes in the first period than we did this whole series. Sometimes you're too anxious. With the talent the Devils have, they make you pay."
The Avs, the darlings of Denver for the past eight weeks, skated off the ice to boos and desperate pleas for a third-period comeback.
It didn't happen as New Jersey's John Madden sealed the game with 1:55 remaining, again tormenting goalie Patrick Roy. The Devils have outscored Colorado 6-1 since trailing 2-1 with 12 minutes left in the third period of Game 4.
"This is not over," said Alex Tanguay, who scored Colorado only goal. "We're a confident bunch in here. We're not going to quit, that's for sure. They beat us tonight. I think we gave it to them. We gave them a few turnovers and they played well and took advantage of it."
The Avalanche, who lost in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals in 1999 and 2000, talked all season about gaining home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs in case they were pushed to seven games.
Colorado won Game 7 against the Los Angeles Kings in the conference semifinals. At this point, a seventh game against the defending champion Devils would be a welcome sight.
"We're going to be flying to New Jersey on a mission," Hartley
said. "It's a big loss tonight, a very disappointing loss but
there's no sense looking back. We know what we have to do in