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Avs Beat Blues 4-2, Pick Up Two Points In Playoff Race

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche
DENVER (AP) - Joe Sakic had a historic goal, a flukey assist and a spectacular save in Colorado's 4-2 victory over St. Louis on Saturday that extended the Blues' winless streak to 13 games.

Sakic moved into a 17th-place tie on the career goals list and got the assist on Milan Hedjuk's empty-netter off a clearing pass in the closing seconds, two plays that helped the Avs avoid a third loss in four games, which would have jeopardized their playoff aspirations.

"Those are the tough teams to play," Avs forward Dan Hinote said. "The non-playoff teams are very dangerous. We know not to take teams like this for granted. They still have an effect on you."

Before beating back the Blues, the Avalanche's slump had left Colorado just three points ahead of ninth-place Vancouver in the Western Conference.

Trailing 1-0 after one period, Colorado began its recovery with a second-period goal from Sakic, his 31st of the season and 573rd of his career, tying Mike Bossy for 17th place.

"Joe really loosened us up," said Hinote, who added a third-period goal. "We were a bit tight. Joe has been carrying us on his back for the last two or three months. He's been phenomenal. We needed a goal, he went down and did what he always does and popped it in for us."

The Avs put the puck in the net twice early in the third period, rejuvenating a Pepsi Center crowd that had sat in silence as the scrappy Blues (0-10-3 since March 23) controlled the ice early on.

Ian Laperriere deflected Kurt Sauer's shot from the slot past goalie Jason Bacashihua to break a 1-1 tie at 17:48 of the third period, and Dan Hinote made it 3-1 four minutes later when he took Cody McCormick's pass from the left circle and tapped it in from the crease.

"Every team at this point is dangerous," Laperriere said. "They want to earn jobs for next year. They played us hard for almost two periods. That's why they led for so long."

At this time of year, there are simply no gimmes.

"They have the young kids and they have a lot to prove and they are trying to earn spots for next year," Sakic said. "They are loose and they are dangerous."

And he'd like to think the Avs are now, too. But he knows that's not going to happen until they clinch an entry to the postseason party.

"We have to worry about a playoff spot," Sakic said. "We've had a pretty good year, got a lot of wins. The way the game is being played now, especially with the shootouts, a lot of the teams out west are good teams. It makes for an exciting race."

Keith Tkachuk's goal for St. Louis at 18:53 made for an interesting finish. Hejduk scored an empty-netter with 31 seconds left, sending St. Louis dejectedly off the ice yet again.

"The easiest thing to do is get down, we just have to keep supporting one another," Blues coach Mike Kitchen said.

The Blues took a 1-0 lead on Kevin Dallman's power play goal at 16:52 of the first period. Sakic tied it when he skated into the slot and fired a wrist shot past Bacashihua's glove at 16:30 of the second period, extending his points-scoring streak to 12 games.

Peter Budaj (14-10-6) got the win in his 13th straight start, earning himself one more before goaltender-in-waiting Jose Theodore makes his Colorado debut Tuesday night against Phoenix.

"Peter will start tomorrow. Jose will dress as the backup," Avs coach Joel Quenneville said. "We will take it day-by-day, but I would anticipate Jose starting on Tuesday. I thought Peter had a strong game the other night against San Jose, and he was strong tonight, too."

Colorado acquired Theodore from Montreal last month but he hasn't played since Jan. 31, when he was pulled from a game against Carolina. After losing his starting job to Cristobal Huet, Theodore broke his right heel Feb. 16 when he slipped on icy steps outside his home in Montreal and was shipped to Colorado for David Aebischer on March 8.

"We're excited to get him in the pipes," Sakic said.


Joe Sakic scored his 573rd career goal today, tying Mike Bossy for 17th place on the NHL's all-time goal-scoring list... Sakic extended his point streak to 12 games, during which he has tallied nine goals and 14 assists (23 points)...It's the longest streak by an Avalanche player this season and the third longest of Sakic's career...He had a 13 gamer, Feb. 26-March 24, 1992, and a career high 14 game point streak from Feb. 29-March 29, 2000... Sakic's 12-game streak equals the fourth longest of any NHL player this season...Dany Heatley scored in 22 consecutive games, Joe Thornton 14 and Vaclav Prospal 13... The Avalanche swept the season series against the Blues, winning all four meetings...It marks only the second time that the Nordiques/Avalanche has ever swept a season series from the Blues and the first time since 1993-94 (2-0 in two meetings)...Colorado did go 4-0-1 versus St. Louis in 1998-99 but had one tie...Peter Budaj started his 13th consecutive game today, becoming the first Colorado netminder to do so since Patrick Roy started 16 straight from Jan. 12 - Feb. 21, 1999... Ian Laperriere scored his 20th goal of the year, surpassing the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career...Laperriere is the first Avalanche player to score 20 goals and compile 100 penalty minutes in a single-season since 1998-99, when both Claude Lemieux and Peter Forsberg both did it...Laperriere leads the team with 109 PIM this season...St. Louis lost its 13 consecutive game, during which the Blues are 0-10-3.


Joe Sakic: General..."We had our chances in the first period. And their goalie made some big saves for them. We just stuck to our gameplan. They had four guys back. It was a tight game but once we got the lead...obviously it was a big win. Every game is going to be tense right now with the race that's going on. It was a big two points. We have another big game against Minnesota (Sunday night). So, hopefully we can get another two points and put a little bit of a gap between us and Vancouver and LA." On Tying Mike Bossy... "When I first started, all I wanted to do was just stay in the league as long as I could. I've been fortunate to be healthy and I've had the chance to play with so many great players throughout my career."

Ian Laperriere: On His Goal... "I thought we had a pretty good shift right before the goal. (Brett) McLean and (Antti) Laaksonen were cycling the puck for a while. I knew something was going to come out of it, you get that feeling sometimes. I positioned myself in front of the net. It wasn't too hard of a shot, I just tipped it."

Dan Hinote: General... "We know not to take teams like Minnesota and these guys that are out of the race...we know not to take them too lightly because they are still dangerous teams." On The Playoff Race... I think this sets us up pretty well for the playoffs. I think sometimes when you have 20 games left in the season and you've secured a good spot for the playoffs, you kind of get a little lacksadasical. Whereas us, all year, our division and conference has been so tight, every game has been like a playoff game. Come playoff time, I think we've played at such a high level, I think we are going to be all set."

Head Coach Mike Kitchen: "It's been a very difficult streak that we're in right now. As hard as we played tonight, our effort was good. We just couldn't seem to score. We had enough chances, especially in the third period to win the game. We keep looking for things and trying to find a way to get on a winning track. We cant fault the guys' effort. The guys worked hard, we just have to get a break here and there."

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