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Colorado Avalanche miss NHL playoffs for first time since 1994

The former Avalanche player almost feels bad. Almost.

Forsberg set up Paul Kariya's game-winning goal midway through the third period to help the Nashville Predators beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Saturday night, knocking Colorado out of the playoff race.

"It's a tough feeling coming in here," said Forsberg, whose team clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference and will host the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. "You've got to be professional."

Forsberg said it was hard to be professional when the team showed highlights of his career on the big screen in the first period. He watched the tribute and then raised his stick in appreciation.

"It shows what kind of classy organization it is," said Forsberg, who had two assists. "The game meant so much to them and they still did it."

Colorado is out of the playoffs for the first time since 1994. The team made a late-season charge, going 14-2-2 over the last 18 games - collecting 30 of a possible 36 points - but it wasn't enough.

The Avalanche finish the season Sunday night against the Calgary Flames, a team Colorado was trying to catch for the eighth and final playoff spot.

The Flames lost to Edmonton later in the evening. The season finale would've been for the last playoff spot had Colorado won.

"It didn't happen," said Joe Sakic, whose team missed the post-season for the first time since moving to Colorado from Quebec before the 1995-96 season. "We fell short."

Kariya insisted the goal had no extra meaning coming against the team he played with for just one season.

"There was no emotion in the goal," he said. "I didn't score it to prove a point. This is a business and the business is all about winning."

Colorado pulled goalie Peter Budaj with one minute remaining and J.P. Dumont scored an empty-net goal with 24 seconds left. It was Dumont's second goal of the game.

Tomas Vokoun stopped 29 shots and improved to 9-4-3 over his last 16 games.

Forsberg said before the game it was going to be tough for him to go up against his former team. He spent nine seasons in a Quebec and Colorado sweater. This was his first appearance in Denver since he signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers before the 2005-06 season.

"It's great to be back here," Forsberg said. "Sometimes you don't know what you have until you leave. We'll see what happens if I continue to play in the future. I've got nothing but good words about this place."

Sakic's two assists Saturday night gave him 97 points for the season. Sakic and Gordie Howe are the only players in NHL history to score at least 95 points at 37 years old or older.

Yet all Sakic could think about was how close the team came to making an incredible late sprint into the playoffs.

"I think the guys grew up a lot," he said. "We just have to build on it for next year."

Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville thought this team could've been a force if it made the playoffs.

"As the year went on, we got better," Quenneville said. "We peaked at the right time. I am a little disappointed. We would have taken some momentum in the playoffs."

And now Nashville does.

"This was a big win for us," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "I didn't have to pump our team up. We weren't going to come in here and lie down."

Colorado's Ian Laperriere still can't believe the Avalanche have been eliminated from the playoff picture.

"It is mind-boggling that we aren't in the playoffs," Laperriere said. "Not with the way we played down the stretch."

Notes: Avalanche F Marek Svatos was a late scratch Saturday night with a groin injury. ... The Predators had two forwards go down Saturday night. Jerred Smithson suffered a right leg injury in the first period and Vernon Fiddler suffered a right arm injury in the second. Neither returned. ... Budaj finished with 28 saves. It's the first time he's been beaten in regulation since Feb. 22. ... David Legwand scored his 27th goal of the season in the third period. ... Milan Hejduk (35th goal) and Andrew Brunette (26th) scored for Colorado.



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