COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Whether it improves Colorado's position in the playoffs or not, the Avalanche appreciated their 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
``Obviously you want to go in playing well,'' Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. ``We want to feel confident in our special teams and to be able to close out teams. We have had a tough time in the past month or so finding ways to win.''
The Avalanche franchise still has a chance to win its 10th straight division title. They came into the game tied for the top spot in the Northwest Division with Vancouver, with the Canucks holding the tiebreaker.
``Even if Vancouver wins, it's good for us to get a win,'' said Peter Forsberg, who had three assists. ``If they win they win, we can't do anything about it.''
Marek Svatos, who just came off the injured list, was the star of the game after scoring his first two NHL goals.
Svatos opened the season with the Avalanche but then injured his shoulder and had to have surgery for the second time in nine months. He was playing his first game since getting hurt Oct. 12, 2003, against St. Louis.
``I didn't play hockey for five months,'' Svatos said with a big smile. ``I'm really excited about starting my season again.''
He scored on the fourth and fifth shots of his career _ in only his third career game _ to end Colorado's five-game road losing streak.
``He played well. He's a good, smart hockey player,'' Forsberg said. ``He certainly fit in good today.''
Trailing 1-0 heading into the second period, the Avalanche scored three times.
Svatos tied it on a rush off a nifty pass from Milan Hejduk. Joe Sakic then gave the Avalanche the lead when he cleaned up the rebound on Paul Kariya's shot for his 33rd goal. Kariya added an empty-net goal.
Svatos made it 3-1 on a goal set up by Forsberg. Forsberg slipped a defender at the goal line and tossed a pass into the slot where Svatos' shot deflected off defenseman Luke Richardson's skate and then off goaltender Marc Denis' stick.
``He (Granato) told me I was going to be on the left side,'' Svatos said. ``I was shaking before he told me, and after he told me I was shaking even more.''
Nikolai Zherdev and Jaroslav Spacek each had a goal and an assist for Columbus, which lost its third in a row.
Before the game, Columbus owner John H. McConnell spoke to the capacity crowd in a video.
``We've got some great young players coming up who will be superstars in the future,'' he said. ``Rick Nash and Nikolai Zherdev are just two; there are many more in the wings. You're going to see a great hockey team in the future.''
The Blue Jackets took the first five shots and led 1-0 after the opening minute.
On the power play, Zherdev circled around the goal cage and wristed a shot high over goaltender David Aebischer's shoulder. It was Zherdev's 13th goal of the season.
``That's our team right now,'' Columbus interim coach Gerard Gallant said. ``We're a pretty good, young team but we seem to make these mistakes and we just can't get back in it.''
Meanwhile, the Avalanche tuned their game for what's ahead.
``Of course, we want to win the division,'' Granato said. ``Will it ruin our playoff chances? No. If you're able to win your division going into the playoffs, you get a little momentum. You get home ice for one round, maybe two rounds. So it's important that we finish strong.''
|PPG - Nikolay Zherdev (13) ASST: Andrew Cassels (20), Jaroslav Spacek (17)|
1 - 0 CBJ
|Marek Svatos (1) ASST: Milan Hejduk (40), Peter Forsberg (35)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Joe Sakic (33) ASST: Paul Kariya (25), Teemu Selanne (16)|
2 - 1 COL
|PPG - Marek Svatos (2) ASST: Peter Forsberg (36), John-Michael Liles (24)|
3 - 1 COL
|Jaroslav Spacek (5) ASST: Nikolay Zherdev (20), Trevor Letowski (16)|
3 - 2 COL
|EN - Paul Kariya (11) ASST: Peter Forsberg (37), Dan Hinote (6)|
4 - 2 COL
|Rob Blake Hooking - Obstruction against Tim Jackman|
|David Ling Unsportsmanlike conduct|
|Chris Gratton Cross checking|
|Tim Jackman Boarding against Peter Forsberg|
|Paul Kariya Tripping against Marc Denis|
|Tim Jackman Interference on goalkeeper against David Aebischer|
|Matthew Barnaby Boarding against Jody Shelley|
|Darby Hendrickson Tripping|
|Scott Lachance Hi-sticking against Dan Hinote|