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Clark Provides Spark for Avalanche

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Brett Clark certainly knows how to celebrate his birthday in style.

The defenseman, who turned 32 years old on Tuesday, scored the game-winner 1:48 into overtime as Colorado topped the Phoenix Coyotes by a 5-4 count.

On the game-winner, Clark received the puck at the point and faked a shot before moving around a Coyotes defender and putting a blast over the right shoulder of Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov to give Colorado its fifth win in the club’s last six games at Pepsi Center.

“I just took it in and controlled the play,” said Clark. “It got poked away and Johnny Liles went behind the net and the puck came out to me. I made a fake and the one guy bit on it, and I just took it in the slot and fortunately it went in the net.”

However, it wasn’t all good news for the Avalanche, as center Paul Stastny suffered a broken forearm late in the third period after being struck by a slap shot. Stastny is out indefinitely.

The injury comes after the third-year center scored his fourth goal in five games.

After Joakim Lindstrom staked Phoenix to a 1-0 lead 4:39 into the game, Stastny evened the contest before the first intermission when he buried a power-play goal from the doorstep at 11:59. John-Michael Liles put a shot on net from the right point, which was stopped by Bryzgalov. Ryan Smyth took a whack at the rebound before Stastny swooped in from the goaltender’s left side and buried the puck to make it a 1-1 contest.

Brett Clark is mobbed by his teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime
Milan Hejduk gave the Avs their first lead of the night at 7:06 of the second frame. Smyth beat Ed Jovanovski to a loose puck before sending a centering feed to Hejduk, who was cutting through the slot all alone. The puck ended up directly between the forward and Bryzgalov, and both proceeded to poke at it. Hejduk was just an eyelash quicker, tipping the puck just past the Phoenix netminder for his 13th tally of the campaign.

Olli Jokinen made it a 2-2 contest 6:48 into the third period when he deposited the rebound of a Peter Mueller attempt. Avalanche goaltender Andrew Raycroft easily stopped Mueller’s shot from the right faceoff circle but Jokinen picked up a long rebound in the slot and put the puck into the net before Raycroft could recover.

Liles provided a power-play goal with 7:55 remaining in the third period to give the Avs a 3-2 advantage. A point shot by Clark started a scrum in front of the net, with Stastny and Smyth both making attempts at the rebound before Liles pinched in and chipped a backhander over Bryzgalov.

Only 1:38 later, Smyth provided the Avs with a bit of breathing room – at least temporarily – by tallying his 11th goal of the season with a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot.

However, Shane Doan single-handedly evened the game for the Coyotes with a pair of late goals. Phoenix’s captain scored on a rebound at 15:53 and sent the game to overtime on a power-play tally from the point with only 47.7 seconds left in regulation, setting the stage for Clark’s game-winner.

“Tonight we just felt like right from the outset—even though they got that goal---we still found ways to claw our way back into it, get shots to the net, and the result is we found a way to win,” said Smyth, who ended up with a goal and three assists. “We got a lot of shots on net, but Bryzgalov was there for the saves at the right times. There was no quit. We wanted to finish it, we wanted to get the two points before Christmas.”

Shot-Blocking Professionals
Along with being the hero of tonight’s game and celebrating his birthday, Clark also took part in a match-up of sorts with Phoenix defenseman Zbynek Michalek. The two blueliners came into the game as the top two shot-blockers in the National Hockey League, with Clark (105) sitting just behind Michalek (117).

Somewhat surprisingly, neither player had a particularly big game in the shot-blocking department, with Clark totaling a pair of blocks and Michalek registering just one.

Loose Pucks
Marek Svatos (back) missed his sixth consecutive game and continues to be listed as day-to-day…Defenseman Ruslan Salei (torso) was replaced in the lineup by Daniel Tjarnqvist for tonight’s game…Salei is also listed as day-to-day…Raycroft has now recorded victories in his last four appearances and owns a 6-1-0 record this year…Tonight’s contest marked the beginning of a stretch that will see the Avalanche play 15-of-19 games at home…The triumph marked Colorado’s 200th regular season win at Pepsi Center…The Avs hold a 200-97-27-19 mark at Pepsi Center since the building opened in 1999-2000.
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