was reminiscing a bit Tuesday, recalling how tenuous at best the Avalanche’s chances of merely making the Stanley Cup Playoffs were following a 5-3 home loss to Anaheim on March 15.
scored a power-play goal with 57 seconds remaining in the third period, followed by a Ducks empty-net goal, sending the Avalanche to their fifth loss in seven games and leaving them five points out of a playoff position with 11 games to go.
“Until we’re mathematically eliminated, we have a chance,” coach Jared Bednar
said after the game.
It sure looked bleak, but the Avalanche responded with an 8-0-2 run to secure the second wild card and No. 8 playoff berth in the Western Conference.
“Probably most people didn’t think we had a chance,” Johnson said Tuesday, reminding us they also lost top-line forwards Gabriel Landeskog
and Mikko Rantanen
to injuries for nine and eight games, respectively, at crunch time.
Now, nearly two months later, here we are.
The Avalanche are one win away from advancing to the conference finals for the first time since 2002, thanks to Landeskog’s overtime goal for a 4-3 win against the San Jose Sharks on Monday before a roaring crowd at the Pepsi Center.
LANDY’S OT GOAL
The Avalanche and Sharks will meet in Game 7 on Wednesday at the SAP Center in San Jose to determine which team makes it to the NHL’s Final Four.
NHL.com GAME STORY
“I can tell you this, it’s not going to be that much different for us than it was last night,” Bednar said before heading to San Jose. “It’s another elimination game for us. I kind of put Game 4 (a 3-0 Avalanche win) in that same category. I felt like we needed to win and not be trailing going back to San Jose 3-1.
“No team in this series has been able to win back-to-back, and we have to be able to do that tomorrow in San Jose. It’s a tough building to go in and play. I felt their team had more desperation than us in Game 5. Maybe we had a little bit of an edge there last night, so now you’re going to see both teams playing desperate hockey, so it should be a fun one.”
AVS FUTURE IS NOW
Series tied 3-3
All times Mountain Time
G1 – San Jose 5, Avalanche 2
G2 – Avalanche 4, San Jose 3
G3 – San Jose 4, Avalanche 2
G4 – Avalanche 3, San Jose 0
G5 – San Jose 2, Avalanche 1
G6 – Avalanche 4, San Jose 3 (OT)
G7 -- Wednesday 7 p.m. – at San Jose
“You look at some of the games we played down the stretch, the games that we needed to win and these couple in the playoffs, it brought the best out of our team, so that gives me confidence going into tomorrow night.
“I know it’s going to be a real tough game, but our guys have stepped up and I think we can do it again tomorrow night and I think our guys believe in that, so the sky’s the limit.”
SHARKS SQUANDER CHANCE TO CLINCH
The Avalanche last played a Game 7 in 2014 against Minnesota in the first round. They lost 5-2 in Game 6 at the Xcel Energy, came home and lost Game 7 5-4 in overtime, squandering a late third-period goal by Johnson for a 4-3 lead.
The Avalanche felt like they were playing Game 7s every night in the final couple weeks of the season, and Monday’s game might as well have been a Game 7 since their season would have ended with a loss.
“It was sort of a Game 7 mentality for us,” Johnson said.
The Avalanche haven’t had much success at the SAP Center, aka the Shark Tank, in recent seasons. Counting their 4-3 win in Game 2, they have gone 3-17-5 in the past 25 games there.
Plus, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer
said Tuesday that captain Joe Pavelski
might play, saying it will be a game-time decision. He’s resumed skating but hasn’t played since sustaining head injuries April 23 in Game 7 of the first-round series with Vegas.
Johnson said all the pressure is on the Sharks, who had the second-best record in the West with 101 points. The Avalanche, of course, knocked off the 107-point Calgary Flames in five games in the first round.
“They’re at home and they’re the favorite in the series,” Johnson said. “For us, we’re just going to go in, embrace the underdog role and have some fun with it.
“It’s been an even series, a back-and-forth series. For us, it’s been fun to get a good experience to get to the second round and it would be even more fun to get to the Western final.”