Craig Anderson was the hottest goaltender in the National Hockey League during the season’s opening month, notching 10 wins in 14 outings en route to being named the NHL’s First Star of the Month.
Wednesday night at Pepsi Center, Peter Budaj received his first start of the season and picked up right where Anderson left off, stopping 28-of-29 shots to lead the Avalanche to a 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
Budaj had actually been slated to receive a start earlier this season in an Oct. 23 game against the Carolina Hurricanes during the front end of back-to-back home games, but was felled by the flu.
In his first opportunity of the season, Budaj found himself staring across the ice at Ilya Bryzgalov, who was nearly as hot as Anderson in the first month of the season. After posting a League-best 1.78 goals-against average and three shutouts, the Coyotes netminder was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month for October.
In the head-to-head battle on Wednesday, Budaj definitely looked to be at full strength, besting Bryzgalov by making 13 saves in a crucial second period and helping his club kill off three of its four penalties on the evening.
“It’s a team effort, especially after losing two in a row,” said Budaj. “I think our team came out really strong and we played good defensive hockey. We tried to eliminate their scoring chances. We tried to make them shoot from the outside. I was able to make saves, and I felt great. It’s a big two points for us.”
With a quick glance at the statistics, you could have probably figured out not to expect an onslaught of goal scoring in tonight’s game. Heading into the contest, the Avs (2.098) and Coyotes (2.10) ranked 1-2 in team goals-against average.
Although Milan Hejduk
gave the club a quick 1-0 lead when he redirected a Kyle Quincey feed just 57 seconds into the contest, the game appeared as if it would be a low scoring affair.
However, things opened up a bit late in the game, as Marek Svatos netted his third goal of the season at 6:53 by putting the rebound of a Paul Stastny
centering attempt past Bryzgalov.
Phoenix got within a goal at 9:52 when Ed Jovanovski’s point shot was redirected up and over Budaj during a Coyotes power play, but it would be the only puck that got past the netminder all night.David Jones
added an empty-net goal with 43 seconds remaining and Hejduk netted his second of the game only 19 seconds later on a breakaway.
In the end, three-point nights by Hejduk (2g/1a) and Stastny (0g/3a) may have overshadowed a solid performance by Budaj, but the netminder’s teammates were singing his praises after the game.
“Budaj played unbelievable,” said Stastny. “He kept us in it. He’s one of the main reasons we got the win and were up one goal going into the third.”