Colorado Avalanche right wing Ian Laperriere (14) lands a punch to the face of Calgary Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf (3) during the third period. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Sakic scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, giving him 100 points for the first time since 2001 and leading Colorado past Calgary 6-3 Sunday night in a game rendered inconsequential by the Avalanche's loss 24 hours earlier. At 37, Sakic became the second-oldest player in NHL history to reach 100 points, joining Gordie Howe, who had 103 points at age 40 in 1968-69.
"Whenever you're mentioned with Mr. Hockey, I don't know how to react," Sakic said. "One day I'll sit back and appreciate what happened."
He'll have plenty of time to relax and reflect now that he's not heading to the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94.
"It is hard," Sakic said. "This is the time you live to play. This is the best time of hockey. It's not going to be fun sitting back. I'll try not to watch because it won't be fun watching other teams play."
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, this 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, and coach Joel Quenneville was curious to see how his team would react.
"I was proud," he said.
So was the sparse crowd that 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.
It had been 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 for a hard hit on Tyler Arnason.
"Nineteen players out of 20 on their team knew exactly how the game was going to be played: play hard but don't be stupid," Laperriere said. "At the end, it was a stupid hit. We don't want to hurt them going into the playoffs and nobody wants to get hurt going into the summer. You can play hard and smart, but he decided to take a run at Arnason and I felt it was the place to tell him it's not right.
"You just can't do that. You've got to respect the game because it's going to come back and bite you."
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.
"He's a great player and he wants to be great every night is probably the best way to sum it up," Quenneville said.
Sakic's 1,589 career points are one shy of Phil Esposito for eighth place in league history, and Avs fans can expect to watch him continue his climb up that ladder come October.
"Yeah, I'll be back" Sakic said in what should take some of the sting out of missing the playoffs.
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.
"It was tough to get mentally ready," Flames forward Alex Tanguay said. "We had some good habits and made some good plays, but obviously there was not any desperation there or intensity like we will have in Detroit" for the first round of the playoffs.
"We are happy nobody got hurt, and now we will be ready for Thursday."
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.
"We will come back to camp a lot more confident group," Laperriere said. "We need to start the year the way we finished."
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.