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Avalanche moves into Cup final

Joe Sakic's OT goal for Colorado eliminates St. Louis in the West final.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 22, 2001


DENVER -- Joe Sakic's power play goal in the first minute of overtime Monday night sent Colorado into the Stanley Cup final with a 2-1 win over St. Louis.

The Avalanche won the Western Conference for the second time, the first since 1995-96, when it won the Stanley Cup.

The goal came while Blues defenseman Alexander Khavanov served a four-minute penalty for high sticking, called with 2:16 left in regulation.

Milan Hejduk kept the puck in the offensive zone after a failed clearing attempt. He passed to Rob Blake, whose slap shot from the right was saved by St. Louis rookie goaltender Brent Johnson, but the rebound went to Sakic, who scored 24 seconds into overtime to give Colorado a 4-1 series victory.

Johnson, starting in place of struggling Roman Turek, made 34 saves.

Hejduk scored 11:20 into the second period on a back-hander with assists from Blake and Ray Bourque, who gets a third shot at the Stanley Cup final in his 22nd season.

Two minutes and 11 seconds later, Bryce Salvador scored on a wrist shot to tie the score at 1.

Turek, impressive during the first two rounds of the playoffs, was benched after four shaky starts in which he allowed 14 goals.

Blues coach Joel Quenneville initially put Turek in the lineup for Game 5 but made a change after the teams warmed up less than an hour before the drop of the puck.

Johnson went 19-9-2 during the regular season but had not started since March 31. He made his first playoff start. He played 1:23 of Game 4 after Turek gave up goals on three straight shots in the first period.

The Avalanche, the NHL's top team during the regular season, plays defending champion New Jersey or Pittsburgh in the final. Colorado lost Game 7 of the West final to Dallas in 1999 and 2000.

Forsberg still out

Colorado forward Peter Forsberg said he expects to miss the rest of the playoffs despite an encouraging recovery from emergency surgery less than two weeks ago.

"I got told right off the bat when we did the surgery I was not going to play in the playoffs," he said. "It's going to take awhile to heal, and I don't think it's going to be a possibility."

Forsberg, a six-time All-Star and Swedish Olympian, had surgery to remove his ruptured spleen and stop internal bleeding early May 10, hours after Colorado defeated Los Angeles in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

He was released from the hospital a few days later and was ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs. Doctors said Monday that the situation changed slightly.

"Certainly after surgery, we thought there is absolutely no chance he's going to play," Avalanche team doctor David Mellman said. "Today we're saying the chances are very, very minimal. He's done great in terms of returning to life, but it's a huge step going back to hockey."

He said Forsberg should have no problem returning next season.

It remains a mystery when Forsberg sustained the hit that ruptured his spleen.

"We had a couple tough hours there," he said. "I was not really scared because you've got so many doctors around telling you it's going to be fine."

* * *

TONIGHT: Penguins at Devils, Game 5, 7, ESPN. Devils lead series 3-1.

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