The Colorado Avalanche made use of four second-period goals to earn a 5-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night at Pepsi Center and move into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division for the first time since Dec. 18.
The Avalanche received goals from five different players – including David Jones
’ second goal in as many games – and has now won five straight home games and eight of nine overall.
“It was nice to see everyone contribute. It was a big game for us,” said Avalanche forward Andrew Brunette. “We realize that we have to start games right, not fall behind two goals and let the other team set the tempo of the game. I think we did that the last two nights and it’s something we have to do when we move forward here.”
The Avalanche opened the scoring late in the first period on Jeff Finger’s seventh tally of the season. Paul Stastny
gained the offensive zone before giving way to Jaroslav Hlinka, who slid a pass into the slot to a streaking Finger. The defenseman’s shot beat Edmonton netminder Mathieu Garon to the glove side at 18:52 to give the Avs a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Avs notched a pair of quick tallies to open its four-goal second frame. Hlinka made it a 2-0 game 18 seconds into the period when he stole a cross-ice feed off the stick of Ladislav Smid and beat Garon with a wrist shot. Tyler Arnason then tallied on the power-play at 3:31 after taking a feed from Joe Sakic and beating Garon to the short side from the right faceoff dot. Garon was replaced by Dwayne Roloson after Arnason’s tally.
Sam Gagner put Edmonton on the scoreboard at 7:21, banging home a goal 17 seconds into an Oiler power play, but David Jones
responded with a power-play goal of his own at 14:36.
Wojtek Wolski stretched Colorado’s advantage to 5-1 and rounded out the scoring after taking an outlet pass from Ian Laperriere and beating Roloson on a breakaway with a low forehand attempt at 16:12.
Peter Budaj, making his first start since Feb. 20 against Anaheim, stopped 23-of-24 shots to earn his 16th victory of the season.
“It’s a good feeling to get back in the net and start a game,” said Budaj. “The most important thing is we played a really good game, from start to finish. You don’t want to take anything away from Edmonton but I think we were a better team tonight.”March Madness
Following tonight’s win, Colorado is 6-1 so far in the month of March and, with eight games remaining before the calendar turns to April, could challenge the franchise record set by last year’s squad for victories in March (11). The Avalanche is now 17-2-2 during the month of March over the last two seasons.Playoff Picture
Colorado’s win – coupled with Atlanta’s 6-4 comeback victory over Calgary, vaulted the Avalanche into first place in the Northwest Division and gave the club the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
The Avs were also helped by the New Jersey Devils’ 4-3 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild and Phoenix’s 2-0 win over Vancouver.
Colorado took over the Northwest Division lead with 84 points, while both Calgary and Minnesota own 82 points and Vancouver (80) sits in the fourth position.Counting Down
Avalanche captain Joe Sakic is on the verge of yet another milestone.
With two more assists, Sakic would become only the 11th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 career helpers. In addition, Sakic is one power-play goal shy of tying Wayne Gretzky for 12th place all-time with 204 power-play markers.
Earlier this season, the Burnaby, British Columbia, native became only the eighth player in NHL history to record 1,600 points when he assisted on Ryan Smyth’s overtime game-winner on Oct. 26 at Calgary. He previously passed Phil Esposito (1590) for eighth place on the all-time points list and overtook Bobby Hull (610) for sole possession of 14th place on the all-time goals list with a goal and an assist on Oct. 7 vs. San Jose.Mr. Jones and Me
After recording his first NHL goal on Tuesday against Atlanta, rookie forward David Jones
scored his second goal in as many games Thursday and was named the Third Star of the game. After recording one assist in his first 15 games, Jones now has four points (2g/2a) in his last two contests.