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Mueller Hurt In Win

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
He’s been called “Savior” in the locker room by his new teammates, has scored some timely goals, flashed a booming shot from the point and gained the adoration of Avalanche fans.

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Not a bad first month in Denver for Peter Mueller

The Avalanche forward has been, in a single word, great since arriving from Phoenix in a deadline deal with the Coyotes. Coming into tonight’s contest, the winger had recorded 17 points (7g/10a) in his first 14 games with the organization, a total that equaled his output in 54 games for the Coyotes this season.

He surpassed that total tonight with a clutch performance during a big 5-4 win over the San Jose Sharks, but left the game late with a scary injury.

Before the injury, Mueller scored two goals to help the Avs erase a deficit against the Sharks, notching both tallies during a dominating second period that saw the Avalanche out-shoot the Sharks, 14-7.

Much credit on the forward’s first goal has to go to Colorado captain Adam Foote, who threaded the needle with a pass from his own blue line all the way to the opposing one, where Mueller picked it up and went on a 2-on-1 with Chris Stewart before beating Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov at 13:58 to tie the game at 2-2.

Mueller then gave the Avs their first lead of the game with 1:53 left in the middle stanza. Matt Duchene led a rush up the right wing before leaving a drop pass to Mueller, whose wrister from the right circle evaded Nabokov.

He wasn’t quite done yet, as the Bloomington, Minn., native had a hand in extending Colorado’s lead to 4-2 just 20 seconds into the third period. Driving hard to the net from the left side, Mueller was unsuccessful in his attempt to jam the puck past Nabokov. But after Sharks blueliner Rob Blake couldn’t get a handle on the loose puck, Milan Hejduk knocked it out to Paul Stastny, who shelved a backhander.

The bad news came late in the game, as Mueller had to be helped off the ice after being shoved into the boards by Blake. The incident happened with 2:42 remaining in regulation while Mueller was chasing the puck in the corner. After taking a forearm in the back from Blake and hitting the end wall, Mueller lay motionless for a few moments and was attended to by Avalanche trainer Matt Sokolowski.

No penalty was called on the play. Mueller was with the Avalanche’s team physicians after the game, and there was no immediate word on the severity of the injury.

PK Thrives
Though the Sharks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, the Avs’ penalty-killing prowess kept them in the game until they could mount a comeback.

Shortly after going down by two goals, Colorado killed off a tripping penalty to Kyle Quincey and later thwarted a pair of San Jose power plays while Stephane Yelle was in the box. In the first period alone, Ryan O’Reilly saw 3:07 of short-handed ice time.

Hard work by the rookie forward also led to Colorado’s first goal. With Quincey’s penalty set to expire, O’Reilly capitalized when Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic fanned on a point shot. O’Reilly grabbed the puck and fed it up-ice to Quincey, who went in on a breakaway and beat Nabokov with a low shot to cut Colorado’s deficit in half, 2-1.

Those three penalties would be the only ones the Avalanche would take in the game, as the team played disciplined hockey down the stretch. After allowing a goal in seven consecutive games from March 16-28, Colorado has now killed off all seven of its short-handed situations over the past three contests.

Getting Some Help
For the past two weeks, Colorado’s players have constantly talked about how they have to worry about themselves and control what they can control in their quest for a playoff berth. They certainly did that tonight by defeating the Western Conference-leading Sharks, but they also received a little help.

The Calgary Flames came into Easter Sunday in a tie with Colorado by possessing 89 points, but were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-1, earlier this afternoon. The Avs now own a two-point edge over the Flames for the eighth and final playoff spot, have a game in-hand and own the tiebreaker with Calgary by having more victories (42 to Calgary’s 40).

One Change
Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco used the same lineup he did Friday night against Calgary, with one exception. Veteran forward Darcy Tucker was scratched tonight in favor of Matt Hendricks.

Hendricks had missed the Avalanche’s past two games with a head injury suffered on March 28 – the last time Colorado and San Jose squared off.
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