It was the first time in the Avalanche’s 11 seasons in Denver that the team played a game with the playoffs out of their grasp.
This game was setting up to be an all-or-nothing affair until the Avalanche blew a third-period lead Saturday night and lost to Nashville, when Peter Forsberg broke Colorado’s hearts again, assisting on the go-ahead goal that would eliminate the Avs from the playoff race.
Colorado’s loss to the Predators handed the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference to the Flames, who lost to lowly Edmonton at home.
So, instead of a packed Pepsi Center on Easter night for a showdown, the lineups lacked all the stars and the seats weren’t packed with fans, making for a quiet and solemn atmosphere until the third period, when the Avs grabbed their first lead on Sakic’s goal and Ian Laperriere went at it with Dion Phaneuf.
The crowd, sparse as it was, stood and gave the Avs a prolonged ovation when the game ended and the Avs held their sticks high in appreciation on the ice before filing through the tunnel, their season over.
Starting goaltenders Miikka Kiprusoff and Peter Budaj were spectators, replaced by Jamie McLennan and Jose Theodore, respectively, in a game that had an exhibition feel to it until Sakic’s power-play goal 44 seconds into the third period gave Colorado its first lead at 4-3 moved him into a tie with Bobby Hull for 14th place on the career goals list with 610.
Sakic also had two assists, giving him 15 against the Flames, a single-season franchise record. His 20 points against Calgary this season tied Peter Stastny’s franchise record set in 1987-88 against the Hartford Whalers.
And Sakic’s 1,589 career points are one shy of Phil Esposito for eighth place in league history.
Scott Parker followed Sakic’s goal with his first goal since Dec. 20, 2005, against Anaheim, making it 5-3, and Paul Stastny capped the comeback with a goal in the final minute.
The Flames took a 1-0 lead into the second period, where the teams traded goals until it was 3-3.
Former Avs forward Alex Tanguay assisted on Calgary’s first two goals, his second one to Marcus Nilson that broke a 1-1 tie. Five minutes later, Sakic got his first assist when Andrew Brunette tied it at 2.
After Stephane Yelle’s goal gave Calgary a 3-2 lead, Sakic assisted on Wojtek Wolski’s goal that tied it at 3.
David Moss beat Colorado defenceman Jeff Finger for the rebound and knocked it in for a 1-0 Calgary lead in the first period. The Avs tied it 1:14 into the second period when Ben Guite picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fired a wrist shot from the slot that went off the crossbar and into the net.
Despite going 15-2-2 in their last 19 games, the Avs won’t be in the playoffs for the first time since the franchise moved from Quebec 12 years ago.
Notes: No team in NHL history scored as many points as the Avalanche (95) and failed to make the playoffs. … This was a makeup of the Dec. 21 game that was postponed by a blizzard. … Avs F Marek Svatos sat out with a groin injury.