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GAME: Western Conference semifinals; Mighty Ducks lead 3-0.
TIME: Thursday, 10 p.m. EDT.
Since the franchise relocated 10 years ago, the Colorado Avalanche have been one of the NHL's best teams. Two unheralded youngsters have put them on the verge of their worst playoff loss since that move.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Joffrey Lupul and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks try to hand the Avalanche their first postseason sweep in 20 years when the teams play Game 4 at the Pepsi Center.
Down 3-0, Colorado knows it doesn't have much of a chance to advance.
"Obviously, it's slim," defenseman Rob Blake said. "We're not too worried about winning four games in a row. We've got to win the next one."
Only the 1975 New York Islanders and 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs have won a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.
While the Avalanche look to stave off elimination, the Ducks are trying to reach the Western Conference finals for the second time in three seasons.
The only two times Anaheim held a 3-0 series lead came in the 2002-03 season, going on to sweep Detroit in the first round and Minnesota in the West finals.
Not only have the Avalanche yet to be swept since moving to Colorado in 1995-96, they have won at least two games in all 25 postseason series they have played while winning two Stanley Cups and reaching the conference finals six times.
The last time this franchise was swept came in 1986 when the Quebec Nordiques lost 3-0 to the Hartford Whalers in the first round. The only time the team was swept in a seven-game series came against the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference finals in 1982.
"We need to play with desperation, and we need to do the same the next game," Avalanche winger Ian Laperriere said. "There is no tomorrow so we need to give it everything we got."
Following back-to-back shutouts by Bryzgalov to open this series, Lupul was the hero for Anaheim in Game 3 on Tuesday. The 22-year-old right wing became the first player in NHL postseason history to cap a four-goal game with an overtime winner, giving the Ducks a 4-3 victory.
Lupul recorded Anaheim's first playoff hat trick before his goal at 16:30 of the extra period made him the first NHL player to score four in a postseason game since Calgary's Theo Fleury did it in 1995.
"It is the best feeling I've ever had," Lupul said.
Lupul has six of Anaheim's 12 goals in this series. Joined by Dustin Penner and Travis Moen, Lupul is on a line that has accounted for seven goals and four assists in three games against Colorado after contributing only one point in the team's first-round series against Calgary.
"We can form a solid second line to chip in with some goals," Lupul said. "It's going to make us that much harder to stop."
When Colorado's Dan Hinote scored to make it 1-0 with 27 seconds left in the first period, it broke Bryzgalov's scoreless streak of 249 minutes, 15 seconds over a five-game span. The 25-year-old rookie put together the second-longest such run in NHL playoff history, trailing only George Hainsworth's 270:08 for Montreal in 1930.
"They put a lot more traffic," said Bryzgalov, who made 26 saves and allowed his postseason high of three goals. "Sometimes I saw three or four players in front of me. It was tougher for me to see the puck."
Bryzgalov had posted three straight shutouts and had not allowed a goal since giving one up in the first period against Calgary in Game 6. He has a 0.85 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in the playoffs.
"It's unrealistic to think he was going to stop every puck," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said.
Bryzgalov has helped stymie a Colorado power play which was second-best in the West during the regular season. The Avalanche failed on all eight of their chances with the man advantage on Tuesday and are 0-for-28 over the last five games.
Colorado, which had won six consecutive overtime playoff games, saw Blake score his third goal of the playoffs. Joe Sakic assisted on that goal to move within one of tying Peter Forsberg's franchise postseason record of 97. Sakic has 177 career playoff points, 11th-most all-time.
If Colorado can prevent Anaheim from matching a club record with its sixth straight playoff win, Game 5 would be Sunday at Arrowhead Pond.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Mighty Ducks - 6th seed; beat Calgary Flames 4-3, West quarterfinals. Avalanche - 7th seed; beat Dallas Stars 4-1, West quarterfinals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Mighty Ducks - Lupul, 7 goals and 25 PIM; Francois Beauchemin, Todd Marchant and Teemu Selanne, 5 assists; Selanne, 9 points. Avalanche - Blake, Sakic and Andrew Brunette, 3 goals; Milan Hejduk, 6 assists; Brunette, Hejduk and Sakic, 8 points; Hinote, 31 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Mighty Ducks - Power play: 13.3 percent (8 for 60). Penalty killing: 90.3 percent (6 for 62). Avalanche - Power play: 10.6 percent (5 for 47). Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (40 for 47).
GOALTENDERS: Mighty Ducks - Bryzgalov (5-1, 3 SO, 0.85 GAA); Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2-2, 3.87). Avalanche - Jose Theodore (4-4, 3.04); Peter Budaj (no appearances).
|May 05 '06||COL 0 at ANA 5|
|May 07 '06||COL 0 at ANA 3|
|May 09 '06||ANA 4 at COL 3 - OT|
|May 11 '06||ANA 4 at COL 1|