for this game

Budaj, power play keep alive Avalanche's playoff hopes

Apr 1, 2007 - 5:33 AM
DENVER (Ticker) -- Peter Budaj proved it's not how you start but how you finish.

Budaj allowed a goal on the first shot he faced but slammed the door thereafter, and defenseman John-Michael Liles and rookie Paul Stastny scored power-play tallies as the Colorado Avalanche remained alive in the playoff chase with a 2-1 triumph over the Minnesota Wild.

Entering with a 10-0-2 record in his previous 13 starts, Budaj was beaten by fellow Slovakian Marian Gaborik's shot - Minnesota's first of the game - just 81 seconds into the first period, putting Colorado in a 1-0 hole.

"We knew they would come out hard because they lost their last two," said Budaj, who tied the franchise record of 10 wins in a month set by Daniel Bouchard in February 1981. "I'm pretty sure they weren't happy."

But the 24-year-old netminder turned aside the Wild's final 23 shots, including just one during a 40-second, 5-on-3 power play for Minnesota early in the third period, to help the Avalanche improve to 12-1-2 in their last 15 contests.

"I think we matched their start," Budaj said. "I think we outworked them a little bit. It was a big kill in the third period on the 5-on-3."

With the win, Colorado (41-30-7) pulled within five points of Calgary for the eighth and final postseason berth in the Western Conference.

"It was big," Stastny added. "Especially after they scored real early. I think we bounced back pretty well."

"It's what we needed," Liles said. "Hopefully, we can get some help tonight."

Unfortunately for the Avalanche, the Vancouver Canucks could not accomodate, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Flames (43-25-10) to push Calgary's advantage back to seven points with four games remaining.

Facing the league's second-best penalty-killing unit (85.9 percent), the Avalanche cashed in twice during the middle session to erase the early 1-0 deficit. Liles scored his 14th goal of the season at 4:25, matching his career high set last season, and Stastny tallied nine minutes later to put Colorado ahead for good.

"We had a lot of power plays, and obviously the first one was a big one to tie it up," Stastny said.

It marked just the 10th time this season Minnesota allowed more than one power-play goal in a contest.

"A couple of funny bounces," Liles said. "Our guys were battling out there, and that's the big thing. A lot of times, it's just outworking their penalty kill."

"We talked about discipline before the game and we didn't take too many, but with a team that has a power play like that, you can't take those kind of penalties," Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster said. "They capitalized on their power plays and we didn't."

Milan Hejduk and rookie Wojtek Wolski each recorded an assist for the Avalanche, who are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94, when the franchise was known as the Quebec Nordiques.

Rookie Josh Harding made 30 saves for Minnesota (45-26-8), which had its five-game road winning streak snapped in losing its third straight overall. With the loss, the Wild remained three points behind the Canucks (47-24-7) for first place in the Northwest Division with three contests left on their schedule.

"I felt pretty good out there," Harding said. "Obviously on the two goals, I could look back and see what I could have done different, but the whole team played pretty well. We just came out on the wrong side of the score."

Colorado defenseman Brett Clark was called for holding just 26 seconds into the contest, and Minnesota converted less than a minute later as Gaborik beat Budaj to the stick side with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle for his 29th goal of the season.

But the Wild were stymied the rest of the way, and the Avalanche - who own the second-best power play in the league at home - converted two of their three man-advantage opportunities in the second period to grab the lead.

"You give them three power plays, what do you think is going to happen?" Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire asked. "That's why they came back."

"Anytime you are undisciplined, it's going to hurt you, especially against a team that is very good on the power play, very good at home on the power play," Wild defenseman Keith Carney said. "I think that was the only bad thing. We still had a chance."

With just three seconds remaining on Derek Boogaard's charging penalty, Wolski completed a cross-crease pass to Liles, who directed the puck past Harding less than 4 1/2 minutes into the session to knot the game.

"(Defenseman) Ken Klee made a great play at the blue line to keep the puck in and put it back down low," Liles said. "Basically, it was three forwards and myself crashing the net, and I ended up being the guy who was open for kind of a tap-in rebound. They don't get much easier."

Colorado jumped ahead with 6:33 to go in the period, when Stastny grabbed the puck during a scramble in front and backhanded it into the net for his 26th tally.

"Hejduk had a good chance before that and hit the crossbar," Stastny said. "Then it was a couple of bounces here and there. It landed on my skate and I kicked it up, and it turned out to be a big goal and a big momentum boost."

"I think they had a couple of lucky bounces," Harding said. "But we have to work for those bounces. Usually, the team that is working harder gets those bounces. I lost the second one, and the first one, I made the first stop and the guy had an empty net."

The Avalanche, which tied the franchise record of 11 wins in a month set in January 2004, nearly doubled the lead with 6 1/2 minutes to go in the third. But Harding came up with a big save on Mark Rycroft's breakaway chance to keep the Wild's deficit at 2-1.








  • NHL
    FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    MINNESOTA 1 0 0 1
    COLORADO 0 2 0 2 FINAL
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: MIN - (PP) MARIAN GABORIK 29 (BRIAN ROLSTON, BRANKO
    RADIVOJEVIC) 1:21
    2ND PRD: COL - (PP) JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 14 (WOJTEK WOLSKI, TYLER
    ARNASON) 4:25
    COL - (PP) PAUL STASTNY 26 (ANDREW BRUNETTE, MILAN HEJDUK)
    13:27
    3

    Mar 31 5:28 PM
  • 15
    roots
    RUWTbot Added 15 roots

    Wild vs. AvalancheMar 31 5:25 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 2ND 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    MINNESOTA 1 0 1
    COLORADO 0 2 2 END OF THE 2ND
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: MIN - (PP) MARIAN GABORIK 29 (BRIAN ROLSTON, BRANKO
    RADIVOJEVIC) 1:21
    2ND PRD: COL - (PP) JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 14 (WOJTEK WOLSKI, TYLER
    ARNASON) 4:25
    COL - (PP) PAUL STASTNY 26 (ANDREW BRUNETTE, MILAN HEJ

    Mar 31 4:38 PM


  • NHL
    MINNESOTA 1
    COLORADO 2
    2ND PRD: COL - (PP) PAUL STASTNY 26 (ANDREW BRUNETTE, MILAN HEJDUK)
    13:27

    Wild vs. AvalancheMar 31 4:29 PM


  • NHL
    MINNESOTA 1
    COLORADO 1
    2ND PRD: COL - (PP) JOHN-MICHAEL LILES 14 (WOJTEK WOLSKI, TYLER
    ARNASON) 4:25

    Wild vs. AvalancheMar 31 4:09 PM


  • NHL
    END OF THE 1ST 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    MINNESOTA 1 1
    COLORADO 0 0 END OF THE 1ST
    GOAL SCORING:
    1ST PRD: MIN - (PP) MARIAN GABORIK 29 (BRIAN ROLSTON, BRANKO
    RADIVOJEVIC) 1:21
    SHOTS ON GOAL: 1ST 2ND 3RD TOTAL
    --- --- --- -----
    MIN 12 12
    COL 13 13
    GOALIES: MIN - JO

    Mar 31 3:45 PM


  • NHL
    MINNESOTA 1
    COLORADO 0
    1ST PRD: MIN - (PP) MARIAN GABORIK 29 (BRIAN ROLSTON, BRANKO
    RADIVOJEVIC) 1:21

    Wild vs. AvalancheMar 31 3:12 PM