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DENVER - Craig Anderson was as interested in getting the Colorado Avalanche back on track as pinning a defeat on his former teammates.
As it turned out, the 28-year-old goaltender did both, stopping 27 shots while recording his career-best seventh shutout of the season in the Avalanche's 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center.
Paul Stastny provided all the offense Anderson needed, breaking out of a goal-scoring slump by getting a pair in the second period. Matt Hendricks netted an insurance goal on a breakaway with 3:35 to play in regulation.
Anderson, who has started 22 consecutive games, left the Panthers last summer to sign a two-year contract with the Avalanche as a free agent. He said blanking his former team made the win extra special.
"Absolutely," said Anderson, who is two shutouts shy of tying Patrick Roy's single-season franchise record. "Obviously they have some guys I know. For me, this is my team here in Colorado and these are the guys I'm playing for now. I just wanted to more or less beat up teams that I used to play for, so it's kind of a good feeling.
"I had good times there when I was there, but this is the team I play for now and this is me going forward, and it's all I can worry about."
The Avs were coming off Tuesday's disheartening 6-4 loss to Vancouver in which they blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads. Colorado had lost four of its previous six games and will play six of the next eight on the road, making Thursday's contest as close to being a must-win as possible at this stage of the season.
"We wanted to bounce back," said Anderson, who made 13 saves in the third period when the Panthers had their best scoring chances. "We've done a great job all year of bouncing back after a poor performance. We find ways to win hockey games after we get beat up a little bit.
"We wanted to play a good solid 60 minutes, play well defensively. You never know how many goals you're going to get. We've been scoring a lot lately, but we wanted to make sure we didn't give them anything."
Stastny felt he had some making up to do after his subpar performance against the Canucks, when he was a minus-3 and had a bad giveaway that led to a Vancouver goal.
"I wanted to show that last game was a fluke," he said. "I'm usually pretty responsible at both ends of the ice. Last game, I had mental lapses. We know it's going to happen here and there, but I wanted to come back tonight and play smart defensively and create some turnovers and keep the puck and create some chances."
Stastny has been piling up assists -- he had eight during a five-game point-scoring streak -- but he hadn't scored a goal since Feb. 8 against St. Louis.
"It's not that big a deal to me," Stastny said of his second two-goal game of the season. "As long as our team is scoring and we're getting wins, that's the most important thing. You try and chip in with goals and assists or just creating chances and getting the team going."
Stastny got his first of the night at 4:59 of the second period after Brett Clark waited for his teammates to set up a screen in front of Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun. Clark, who was a healthy scratch for the three previous games, launched a shot and Stastny back-handed the rebound into the net.
"I know I have to shoot more and getting that first goal was nice to help our team get going," he said. "It was a stingy game and I think we kind of sat back and tried to feel it out. With that goal, I think we started playing with more confidence."
The Avalanche made it 2-0 at 15:21 on what was essentially a 5-on-3 advantage after Florida's Radek Dvorak went off for roughing with 13 seconds remaining on the Panthers' too-many-men penalty that was served by Cory Stillman.
Stastny converted Chris Stewart's pass through the goalmouth one second after the Panthers' bench minor expired and well before Stillman could get back into the play.
Stewart, who also assisted on the first goal, was standing below the left circle when he slid the puck to Stastny stationed just outside the right post.
"Paul knows when he plays well and when he doesn't," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "He knows that the last game wasn't his best game. That's what good players do; they step it up the next game and take on the challenge to being the best player and tonight he came up big."
The Panthers, who had won three games in a row, fell eight points out of the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference with 16 games remaining. They have been shut out seven times this season.
"It's tough to score goals in this league," said forward David Booth, whose point streak was snapped at four games. "But the good teams that score goals, they move the puck around and get pucks to the net. Not every goal is pretty. You just find quiet spots in front of the net and get traffic. We need more of that."
|TJ Galiardi Tripping against Keith Ballard|
|Cody McLeod Fighting (maj) against Gregory Campbell|
|Gregory Campbell Fighting (maj) against Adam Foote|
|Cory Stillman Too many men/ice - bench|
|Radek Dvorak Roughing against TJ Galiardi|