Colorado center Chris Drury scored with 31 seconds remaining in overtime tonight to give the Avalanche a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the NHL's Western Conference finals at McNichols Arena.
Avalanche defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh set up the game-winning goal, stealing a pass inside the Stars zone and dishing to Drury for a wrist shot that got past goaltender Ed Belfour.
Drury's goal evened the series at two games apiece, with Game 5 scheduled for Sunday in Dallas. Colorado also is assured of another home game Tuesday, in Game 6.
"If [Dallas] would have pulled this one off, it would have been tough to make a comeback," said Drury, who scored his first goal of the playoffs. "But we pulled this one out."
Colorado quickly showed there was no hangover remaining from Wednesday's 3-0 home loss by scoring two goals in the first five minutes tonight.
With Colorado's Theo Fleury jostling with defenseman Darryl Sydor in front of the net, Avalanche center Joe Sakic successfully fired from the top of the slot with 15 minutes 54 seconds remaining in the first period.
That goal marked the end of Belfour's 89-minute shutout streak and Sakic's scoring drought. Sakic, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner when Colorado won the Stanley Cup in 1996, had all but disappeared in the postseason with only one goal in the previous 10 games.
Colorado was back on the scoreboard less than a minute later, with left winger Shjon Podein getting the puck past Belfour after it was tipped by Dallas defenseman Craig Ludwig. It marked the first goal scored by Colorado's third line in this series.
But Dallas clamped down defensively and put frequent pressure on goalie Patrick Roy. The Avalanche was outshot 30-20 through the first two periods, with Dallas getting 18 shots on Roy in the second.
Such persistence paid off on a power play midway through the second. As Roy's vision was obstructed by Doug Lidster and Joe Nieuwendyk, Stars left winger Jamie Langenbrunner scored from the faceoff circle to cut Colorado's lead to 2-1.
As for the goal that sent the game into overtime, Colorado defenseman Sylvain Lefebvre's mistake hurt his team dearly.
Deep inside his territory, Lefebvre had the puck stolen from behind by Langenbrunner. Brett Hull capitalized by zipping the puck between Roy's legs with 3:53 left in regulation.
With that goal, Hull tied his Hall of Fame father, Bobby, in playoff goals with 129. It also was Hull's first goal since Game 1 of the series.
The Avalanche had a chance to score on a two-man break with about one minute remaining in regulation, but Sakic mishandled a pass from Fleury in front of Belfour and never got off a shot.
Tonight's game was the most physical of the series, which was expected after both teams took stabs at each other in the media beforehand.
Stars center Guy Carbonneau said Dallas had Colorado "on the ropes," while Roy played down Belfour's shutout by saying, "I thought he could have played on a chair. It was not a tough game for him. The only shots we had hit the crossbar and the post. And there was no traffic in front of him."
The intensity carried onto the ice: Avalanche right winger Milan Hejduk (broken right collarbone) and Stars defenseman Richard Matvichuk (strained groin muscle) were knocked out with injuries. Hejduk is out for the season.
Colorado already was without left winger Valeri Kamensky, who has a sprained right wrist and is listed as day-to-day.