Avalanche Are Suddenly on a Roll

Thursday, March 8th 2007, 5:53 am
By: News On 6

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Paul Stastny can think of a couple of reasons why he won't be calling his dad to gloat about breaking one of his records. First, the rookie forward is more concerned about lifting the Colorado Avalanche back into playoff contention. No. 2, Stastny figured his father, Peter, would be sleeping by the time he had time to call after Colorado's 3-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday.

``No, I don't want to wake him up,'' Stastny said with a laugh.

Stastny can smile because he had two assists to extend his point streak to 17 games to match the NHL rookie record set in 1993 by Winnipeg's Teemu Selanne. And he also broke the franchise record set by his father in 1980.

``Oh, he'll be happy for me,'' Stastny said. ``But he'll be more happier about our team, more importantly.''

The Avalanche are suddenly on a roll, having won a season-high five straight to inch to within six points of idle Minnesota for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Colorado's big test comes Sunday, when it closes its five-game road swing at Minnesota.

Also Wednesday, it was: Anaheim 2, Phoenix 1; Columbus 3, Los Angeles 2 in OT; and Tampa Bay 3, Edmonton 1.

Colorado is winning because it's getting timely scoring, strong goaltending from Peter Budaj, who stopped 19 shots to win his fifth straight, and playing with newfound confidence.

``Right now we seem to be on a roll and playing with a lot of confidence,'' Joe Sakic said. ``All we can do is try to keep winning and put some pressure on and try to get us back in the race.''

Sakic set up rookie Wojtek Wolski's goal that broke a 2-2 tie 1:41 into the third period. Getting to the puck at the left boards, the Avalanche captain fed a pass into the crease, where Wolski tipped it in.

The assist was the 965th of Sakic's career, moving him into 11th on the NHL list, one ahead of Doug Gilmour.

The Avalanche managed to beat an East-leading Sabres team that had gone 9-1-1 in its previous 11 games, and had scored 34 goals in its past six games.

Buffalo couldn't even get a boost with the return of Chris Drury. The co-captain was back after missing four games with a concussion after being blindsided by Ottawa's Chris Neil two weeks ago.

``You're not going to win many games if the other team is more desperate than you are,'' said Buffalo forward Jason Pominville, who scored 13 minutes into the second period to tie the game at 2. ``We weren't sharp enough.''

The Avalanche are playing with renewed motivation. They haven't missed the playoffs since 1994 when the team was still based in Quebec City.

``It was only a matter of time,'' Stastny said, referring to the team's turnaround. ``Team morale is so high, we know we're in every game. The first 10 minutes tonight, we were down 1-0 and in the back of our minds we knew we could turn it around and give ourselves a chance to win.''

Credit Stastny, who assisted on Colorado's first two goals, including setting up Milan Hejduk's short-handed tally that tied it at 1 midway through the first period.

Stastny's streak is the longest in the NHL this season, and the best run since Ottawa's Dany Heatley had a point in 22 consecutive games from Oct. 5 to Nov. 29, 2005.

Ducks 2, Coyotes 1

Joe DiPenta scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period, fellow defenseman Ric Jackman connected on a power play, and Anaheim earned its 10th straight home victory over Phoenix.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 24 shots, allowing a goal by Phoenix captain Shane Doan. Anaheim is 16-1-1 with a tie in the last 18 matchups between the teams and has taken six of the first seven meetings this season.

The Ducks have 40 victories and lead the Pacific Division with 91 points. They are three wins and seven points from equaling the franchise record in both categories, set last season.

Anaheim played without Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Chris Pronger, who broke the big toe on his left foot.

Lightning 3, Oilers 1

Vincent Lecavalier scored twice to lift Tampa Bay over struggling Edmonton.

Vaclav Prospal had the other goal for Tampa Bay, which moved into a first-place tie with Atlanta atop the Southeast Division.

Ladislav Smid had the lone goal for host Edmonton, which has lost five straight games and four in a row since dealing forward Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders.

Blue Jackets 3, Kings 2, OT

David Vyborny scored twice, including the winner with 21.4 seconds left in overtime. Vyborny's 15th goal tied it 2-2 at 5:02 of the third period.

The victory was the Blue Jackets' third in a row. The visiting Kings dropped their third straight.

Geoff Platt scored his first NHL goal and added an assist, giving him four points in two games. Vyborny assisted on Platt's goal.

Kevin Dallman scored his first goal in almost a year for the Kings, and Jamie Heward added a power-play goal.

Fredrik Norrena had 27 saves to run his season record to 18-15-3 in his quest to become the first Columbus goaltender to finish a season with a winning record.