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Budaj Leads Avs to Fifth Straight Win

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The numbers were impressive coming into the game. The Avalanche was the highest scoring team in the league, averaging 4.0 goals-per-game. The club had also scored four or more goals in five consecutive games and six times in its previous seven outings.

A look at Buffalo’s lineup was almost as imposing. The Sabres had scored 24 times in seven games and boasted the league’s top goal scorer, left wing Thomas Vanek (8 goals).

On paper, the game had all the makings of a high-scoring contest. Instead, fans in attendance at Pepsi Center on Saturday night saw more of a goaltending duel than a shooting gallery as the Avalanche topped the Sabres by a 2-1 count following a shootout.

Milan Hejduk, Wojtek Wolski and Ryan Smyth scored during a shootout that went five rounds to give the Avalanche its fifth straight victory.

“I think today was a very good defensive game for us,” said Wolski. “They score a lot of goals and then we kept them to one. So we’re happy with that and happy with the win.”

The goaltenders were unequivocally the stars of tonight’s game. Ryan Miller put up a 28-save performance for the Sabres, while Peter Budaj again had a solid outing with a 29-save effort in the victory.

And the two netminders could hardly be faulted for the pair of pucks that slipped past them in regulation.

Daniel Paille opened the scoring for the Sabres at the 9:18 mark of the middle frame, redirecting a Toni Lydman point shot that then trickled over the goal line.

Avalanche defenseman Jordan Leopold tied the game with 6:24 remaining in the third period on a shot that also came from the point. Leopold’s attempt slipped past Miller to force overtime after hitting a sliding Buffalo defender.

The majority of the action took place in Buffalo’s defensive zone during the extra session, but neither team was able to capitalize on their chances.

Hejduk opened the shootout with a goal on a backhand attempt, but Ales Kotalik answered right back with a low shot that beat Budaj. After unsuccessful attempts by both teams, Wolski notched a pretty goal by faking to his right before moving back to the left and beating Miller with a forehand. However, Derek Roy kept the Sabres alive with a shot that rang off the post and into the goal.

Marek Svatos was stopped on the Avalanche’s fourth attempt, giving Vanek a chance to win the game. But Budaj had other things in mind, as the goaltender made a great save by stretching out his left pad and stopping the puck just short of crossing the line.

Smyth then put the Avs ahead on an attempt that bounced off Miller’s blocker before heading into the net. Clarke MacArthur had one final chance for the Sabres, but Budaj shut the door to seal the win.

“They scored and got the lead but our team persevered, especially in the third period,” said Budaj.  “We kept on coming, kept on coming. (Miller) was playing great, made some big saves. We got the bounce there in the third and it was a big thing. But I definitely think that we played a really strong defensive game. It was a big two points for us.”

Five Alive
The Avalanche’s five-game win streak is its longest since Feb. 26-March 8, 2008. During that stretch, the Avalanche won six straight games. The streak also coincided with the NHL’s trade deadline (Feb. 26), when the Avs acquired defensemen Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei only one day after signing free agent Peter Forsberg.

Foote joined the club that same evening, only hours after the trade, and played in Colorado’s 3-2 overtime victory over Calgary to open the winning streak. Salei made his Avalanche debut the following night during a 3-2 shootout victory at Vancouver.

Teaming Up for the Fight
The Avalanche and the National Hockey League teamed up tonight as Colorado hosted its Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night. Special activities at the game included coaches and broadcasters wearing Hockey Fights Cancer ties, Avalanche players’ helmets featuring Hockey Fights Cancer decals and King Soopers presenting a check to the American Cancer Society during the first intermission. Click here to see photos of the Avalanche taking part in the fight against cancer.

Super Saturday
Today was a hockey bonanza for NHL fans, as for only the second time in history all 30 NHL teams were in action on the same day.

From the first drop of the puck at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia to the final buzzer at Vancouver’s General Motors Place, nine continuous hours of hockey were showcased across North America. In fact, when the puck dropped at Pepsi Center, 12 NHL games were in progress simultaneously.

When all was said and done, the results couldn’t have been much better for the NHL. Of the 15 games contested Saturday night, 10 were decided by one goal. Of those, five went into overtime and two needed a shootout to decide the winner.

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