DENVER – The once-bitter rivalry hasn't been the same for some time, but the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings can still play high speed, entertaining hockey.
The Avalanche held on for a 5-4 win Monday night at the Pepsi Center to gain a split in the four-game season series in which three of the meetings were decided by one goal, with one in overtime and one in a shootout.
Slumping with two wins in their previous nine games, the Avalanche got a huge performance from the Tomas Fleischmann-Matt Duchene-David Jones line, which combined for three goals and five assists through the first two periods when the Avalanche grabbed a 5-3 lead.
"We had some opportunities and we jumped on them and we were able to convert them," said Duchene, who had two goals and set up Jones for what proved to be the decisive goal at 6:51 of the second period. "When you're able to do that, things go pretty well.
"They scored a couple on special teams, but we played great hockey 5-on-5 and shut them down. They're a team that's got a ton of skill and they're really hard to shut down at the end of the game there and we were able to do it."
The Red Wings rallied from 4-1 and 5-2 deficits, climbing within a goal on power-play goals by Henrik Zetterberg at 15:30 of the second period and Tomas Holmstrom at 9:45 of the third.
The Red Wings, who won the first three games of a five-game trip that concludes Friday in Columbus, outshot the Avalanche 12-4 in the final period.
"We knew they were going to come out hard and not just lay down there," said Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj, who finished with 26 saves. "They were going to battle hard, and they did. They have a lot of skill and they scored a couple nice power-play goals. But we stuck with it and we didn't panic."
The Avalanche took its 5-2 lead when Duchene fed Jones skating down the slot for a back-hander that beat goalie Joey MacDonald to the stick side.
"I actually got a nice, little boost from (Fleischmann) in the neutral zone," said Jones, who had two assists. "He kind of pushed me with his stick and Matt made a nice pass and I was able to put it in. We were going to the net hard tonight."
The Red Wings pulled within 5-3 when Zetterberg, who has six goals and 10 assists in an 11-game point-scoring streak, poked the puck by Budaj, who made the original stop against Holmstrom.
Holmstrom returned the favor in the third period when he deflected Zetterberg's blast by Budaj's glove.
Detroit scored eight goals in the last two games with Colorado, six on power plays.
"They have great players, so you're going to give up something," Budaj said. "But we've got to cut down on penalties that aren't necessary."
The Avalanche also went 0-for-5 on power plays and are in a 1-for-24 drought with the man advantage.
"Our special teams need to be way better," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.
Fleischmann set up Duchene for a pair of first-period goals when the Avalanche took a 4-2 lead and chased goalie Jimmy Howard, who allowed all four goals on 10 shots.
"I was ready," Howard said. "I felt really good out there, to be honest with you. You know in this League, you have to start on time. If you don't, you dig yourself a hole really quick and it's tough to dig yourself out."
Duchene sandwiched goals around one by Kevin Porter, whose shot from the lower right circle found its way through several bodies for a 3-1 lead at 12:28. It was Porter's first goal in 10 games.
"Matty's line had some good jump early," Sacco said. "They skated very well. They had some good speed through the neutral zone and were difficult to contain at times.
"When we play to our ability, especially with the way we're playing 5-on-5 lately, we're a very good team. When you play a team like Detroit, it's not hard to get motivated. It just goes to show when we do come ready to play, like we were tonight, we can play with anybody."
After Colorado's Paul Stastny and Detroit's Jan Mursak traded goals 54 seconds apart – the goal was Mursak's first in eight NHL games – the Avalanche struck for three goals on four shots in a 5:43 span.
Duchene sped down left wing after Fleischmann took a hit along the boards while making the pass and beat Howard through the 5-hole from a sharp angle at 8:32.
Fifteen seconds after the Avalanche failed to cash in a power play, Porter scored his first goal since Dec. 19 against Montreal. His assist on Stastny's goal was his first point since that game.
Duchene added his second goal at 14:15 on a return pass from Fleischmann during a 2-on-1 rush with Ruslan Salei as the lone Red Wings' defender back.
It was the last shot Howard faced.
"Yeah, it (stinks)," he said. "I want to be out there. I don't want to get pulled. I'm just going to put it behind me and move on."
The Red Wings closed to 4-2 at the 18-minnute mark on a goal by Brian Rafalski, whose shot from the top of the slot beat a screened Budaj.
MacDonald, called up from Grand Rapids on Sunday because Chris Osgood has a groin injury, was tagged with the loss even though he stopped 17 of 18 shots.