DENVER -- Determined to remain in the hunt for the Stanley Cup Playoffs despite long odds, the Colorado Avalanche got goals from five players and hung on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 at Pepsi Center on Saturday.
Marc-Andre Cliche, John Mitchell, Tyson Barrie, Matt Duchene and Brad Stuart scored to support goalie Semyon Varlamov, who stopped all 20 shots he faced through two periods before giving up three goals in the third, two to Andrej Meszaros.
The Avalanche (35-28-12) have seven games left and are eight points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.
The Sabres (20-47-8) are 1-9-3 in their past 13 games. They lost to the Avalanche for the ninth consecutive time since a 6-4 win Dec. 4, 2005.
"There was no need to have the meltdown that we did a little bit there," said Duchene, who had two assists and scored his 19th goal at 6:56 of the second period for a 4-0 Avalanche lead. "It's a good lesson going into the next game and something to keep in mind. You never know what can happen, and we need to win every game so we need every goal we can get."
Duchene was upset at himself for taking a shot at the empty net with 2:03 remaining in regulation -- he hit the right goal post -- rather than passing to Jarome Iginla, who had three assists to pass Jean Beliveau into 40th place on the NHL's all-time points list with 1,222 but needs four goals for 30 this season.
"It's pretty awesome," Duchene said of Iginla's achievement. "I didn't see him over to my right on that empty-netter. I'm kicking myself right now because I want him to get 30 this year and I would have definitely dished it off to him. I wish I had seen him. I'm pretty upset right now. He'll get there, but that would have been one step closer. I've apologized four or five times. I had no idea he was there."
The Mitchell-Duchene-Iginla line accounted for two goals, five assists and six shots. Each player was plus-3.
"I think it's cool," Iginla said of passing Beliveau. "Maybe in the summer you look, but I do think that's cool. It's a great honor. I keep saying when I first started I wasn't dreaming that. It's fun to play this long, and I'm still enjoying it as much as ever."
The Avalanche killed two first-period penalties and grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Cliche and Mitchell, who scored on consecutive shots 32 seconds apart.
Sabres coach Ted Nolan replaced goalie Anders Lindback (two goals, 12 shots) with Matt Hackett to begin the second period, but the Avalanche continued to press and scored on their first two shots to build a 4-0 lead.
"I felt the way the game was going we had no life, we had no jump, we had nothing going on," Nolan said of the goalie change. "We didn't start the way we wanted to, and they caught us a little flat-footed. They have high-end skill guys on their team. We found a way to fight back towards the latter part of the game."
Barrie drove to the net and beat Hackett to the glove side at 3:29 for his 12th goal, one short of his NHL high set last season, and his 100th NHL point. Ryan O'Reilly was between the faceoff circles when he spun around to feed Barrie and stretch his point streak to seven games (four goals, eight assists).
Duchene increased the lead to 4-0 when he took a pass from Iginla, accelerated into the Sabres end and overpowered Hackett with a shot.
"I played no different than I have been," Duchene said. "It's one of those nights where things finally went into the net."
The Sabres made a game of it in the third period.
Meszaros scored his first goal of the night at 3:09 when he came from behind the net and poked the puck behind Varlamov.
Stuart got that one back for Colorado at 4:48 with a shot from the right point, but Meszaros scored his fifth goal at 5:29 with a long shot from near the left-wing boards after an Avalanche turnover.
"We were working hard," Meszaros said. "We kept pushing and tried to put pucks in the net. We knew we could score goals. We battled hard. Nobody threw in the towel after the second. We picked ourselves up and battled hard, but it wasn't enough."
The Sabres outshot the Avalanche 18-7 in the third period and 38-22 for the game.
"I thought we were solid in the first 40 (minutes) and I think at the end we were a little tired and had a bit of lack of focus after we were up by four goals," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "You look at the schedule we've been through, four games in six nights, the last three on the road, I have to say I'm not surprised to see that happening."