The Colorado Avalanche has this thing about adversity. The Avalanche thrives on it.
Missing two of its top five scorers, the Avalanche erupted for its most goals of the playoffs in a 7-5 victory today over the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
Colorado, which overcame a 2-0 series deficit against two-time champion Detroit in the second round, is one victory from the Stanley Cup finals. The Avalanche has its first shot at advancing Tuesday night in Denver. If a seventh game is needed, it will be Friday night in Dallas.
"I think we learned in the Detroit series that you're not going to win on talent alone," defenseman Aaron Miller said. "But when we play together, we're a great team, a real force out there."
The Avalanche came to Dallas ready to play without rookie scoring sensation Milan Hejduk for the first time since he broke his collarbone Friday night. Then, a few hours before the game, Colorado learned that second-leading scorer Theo Fleury had flu and couldn't play.
The Stars couldn't take advantage of their absence, and they didn't do much with leads of 2-1 or 3-2. Dallas did score twice within 1 minute 15 seconds in the third period to tie the game at 5.
But Chris Drury knocked in a rebound with 6 minutes 44 seconds left to make it 6-5 Colorado. Peter Forsberg scored into an empty net with 33.9 seconds left to give the Avalanche seven goals for the first time in 17 playoff games.
Drury's goal was his second straight game-winner and fourth of the playoffs, tying an NHL rookie record.
"We all needed to pick it up and do something extra," said Forsberg, who also had two assists to boost his playoff-leading point total to 23. "A lot of guys chipped in. Chris made a couple of great plays."
Playing 38 hours after Drury's overtime goal in Game 4 tied the series, Colorado forced Dallas to play an up-tempo game. The result was wave after wave of odd-man rushes against Stars goaltender Ed Belfour.
"We got away from our game a little bit," Stars captain Derian Hatcher said. "It was a run-and-gun game and we fell into it."
Belfour, playing in his 100th career playoff game, gave up two goals in each period. He'd only had four two-goal periods in his previous 72 periods this postseason.
"You leave them in the open ice like that, they can make some plays and dominate a game," Dallas's Mike Modano said.
The Stars made a game of it again after Valeri Kamensky's second goal gave the Avalanche a 5-3 lead with 13:34 left.
A goal by Mike Keane that was waved off because he kicked the puck into the net got the 17,001 fans in Dallas going. They erupted again when Brett Hull fired the puck past Patrick Roy to make it 5-4, and 1:15 later Roy kicked in a wraparound by Pat Verbeek to tie the game with 9:03 left.
The Stars had turned third-period deficits into victories five times this postseason, but they couldn't do it this time.
"It was one of those games where you claw your way back, then -- boom -- the puck is in the net again," Dallas defenseman Shawn Chambers said.
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