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Avs Shutout Flames, Move Into First Place In Northwest

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche
DENVER (AP) - Peter Budaj is rewarding the Colorado Avalanche for their faith in him.

Budaj stopped 33 shots for his first career shutout and the Avalanche moved into first place in the Northwest Division with a 3-0 victory Sunday over the Calgary Flames.

Colorado traded veteran goaltender David Aebischer to Montreal for Jose Theodore last week and put Budaj in goal. The 24-year-old rookie has responded with two straight wins in the heat of a playoff race.

"Part of the decision in making the trade was that we trusted that Peter could take us down the stretch," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "Every time that he has gotten an opportunity, he has risen to it, and we expect him to do it again."

The win moved Colorado a point ahead of the Flames. It was the first of back-to-back meetings between the two teams, which play again in Calgary on Monday.

"It is great when the coaching staff and the organization has the faith in you that you can get the job done," Budaj said. "What I'm doing right now is working hard, and playing good hockey."

Budaj made several acrobatic saves, including on Sean Donovan from in front of the crease.

"I just stayed with him as long as I could," Budaj said. "I thought I had an even better one in the second period on Jarome Iginla because with him you have to be in the best position you can be against Iginla, a guy that can beat you so many ways."

He got offensive production from the team's top three offensive players. Joe Sakic and Alex Tanguay each had a goal and an assist. Milan Hejduk added a short-handed goal.

The loss denied Calgary coach Darryl Sutter his 400th career win. Ninety-eight have come with the Flames, who had won three of their previous four.

Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff had 22 saves for the Flames, who were 0-for-5 on the power play.

Tanguay's power-play goal with 9.2 seconds left in the first period gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead. Sakic waited patiently for Kiprusoff to drop to the ice before setting up Tanguay with a pass to the opposite side of the crease.

Sakic and Hejduk scored 3 minutes apart in the second period to extend Colorado's lead to 3-0. Tanguay picked up a loose puck at center ice after leaving the penalty box and set up Sakic's wrist shot from between the circles at 13:09. Hedjuk scored on a 2-on-1 rush with Brett Clark off for hooking.

"We played pretty well in the second period, but we were down 2-0, and that is hard to come back from late," Sutter said. "Budaj made some big saves, but whenever a guy gets a shutout, he usually does."

Calgary's best scoring chance came with 9:52 left in the game and didn't require Budaj to make a save. Sean Donovan hit the left post from 15 feet out, skated down the rebound, but sent the puck wide of the net.

"Budaj was tough on us, but it wasn't like we didn't have our chances," Donovan said. "It just doesn't seem like we play our game in this building."


With today's victory, the Avalanche moved into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division (80 points) ... Peter Budaj recorded his first career NHL shutout with his 33-save performance this afternoon ... Joe Sakic recorded his 900th career assist today, becoming the 16th player in NHL history to reach that plateau....He is now one shy of tying Bryan Trottier (901) for 15th place all time ... Sakic's two points this afternoon give him 1,465 for his career, just two shy of tying Stan Mikita (1467) for 11th place on the NHL's all-time scoring list ... Milan Hejduk recorded his 19th goal of the season today, and 216th of his career, tying Peter Forsberg for fifth place on the franchise's all-time goal scoring list ... It was Hejduk's third career short-handed goal but first since Dec. 29, 2001 vs. Philadelphia ... The Avalanche is now 16-7-2 against the Northwest Division this year, including 11-1-2 at home...The Avs are 3-1-1 against the Flames this year, 3-0-1 on home ice.


Milan Hejduk: "It was a really big game for us. Peter Budaj made some good saves and overall it was very good. Peter was outstanding, his gave us big saves. I don't know if it was the best game for us but one of the better ones for sure. We have another huge game tomorrow but if we keep playing like we did tonight, we have a chance to win. If you look at the standings, it's so tight. Every game is huge, especially now. These games with Calgary are for first place in the division, so they're really big."

Peter Budaj: "I played pretty good and I'm happy that I could help our team win. This was the biggest game of the season so far." On Being The No. 1 Goalie... "The situation is I know Jose Theodore is our No. 1 goaltender right now. He's hurt and right now it's my chance to do the job. I just have to prepare for the games like I'm the starter. Hopefully I'm going to help this team get to the playoffs and get to the playoffs with a good rank."

Joe Sakic:"Everybody played well, the power play, we really moved the puck around. We got some chances early. We could have had a couple more in the first period. Everybody contributed, it was a great win and we got great goaltending. We know it's not the important one now. Now we have to wait until tomorrow to keep this first place. On Budaj...He's been great. This is exactly what we expected from him. Every time he's played this year, he's played well. We have a lot of confidence in him."

Coach Darryl Sutter: "After the first period, it was 1-0, but it should have been more for them. I thought we played well enough in the 2nd other than our power play. I think early we had some players that weren't ready to play. It's disappointing. Budaj made some big saves, but when a guy gets a shutout, that's what he usually does. Losing (first place in the Northwest division) that's not what is important. It's not where you're at in the standings, it's more about how you're playing. Does it worry me? No it doesn't worry me.

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