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Wolski, Svatos, Arnason Lead the Way

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
Sometimes a hot start is all you need.

The Colorado Avalanche notched three first-period goals Saturday night en route to a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Pepsi Center.

Wojtek Wolski, Marek Svatos and Tyler Arnason dazzled the opposition in the opening frame, combining for seven points (2g/5a) through 20 minutes of play.

The Avalanche got on the scoreboard with a power-play goal at 15:20. Jordan Leopold entered the offensive zone and made a quick pass to Svatos, who cut down the middle and stickhandled around three defenders before sending it back to Leopold. The defenseman caught the puck on his backhand, quickly shifted to his forehand and shelved a shot past Olaf Kolzig’s glove.

Svatos also set up Colorado’s second goal, which came 2:01 later. Following a faceoff win by Arnason, Svatos fought off a defender and managed a shot on goal. Kolzig made the save, but Wolski swooped in and banged home the rebound for his third goal of the year.

Wolski added his second tally of the game with 1:03 remaining in the first period off assists from Arnason and Svatos. Arnason controlled the puck along the right wing before sending a centering feed to Wolski. The Poland native fumbled the initial pass, but gained control and put home a backhand to make it a 3-0 game.

Kolzig was replaced by Mike Smith in the Tampa Bay goal following the intermission.

Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier scored the lone goal of the middle frame, blasting a shot past Andrew Raycroft from the top of the right faceoff circle at 12:17.

The Avs took a 4-1 lead at the 3:42 mark of the third period when David Jones took advantage of a mistake by Tampa Bay’s netminder. After a dump-in, Smith took too long trying to play the puck before eventually shuffling a weak clearing attempt into the slot. From there, Jones corralled the puck and made two nice moves – one around a Lightning defender and the other around Smith – to notch his second goal of the year.

The visitors made things interesting late in the game with a pair of power-play tallies. Ryan Malone tipped home a Steve Eminger point shot at 9:19, while Steven Stamkos netted a goal at 15:31 with Cody McCormick in the penalty box to account for the 4-3 final score.

Svatos Setting Up Plays
Marek Svatos tied his career high with three assists tonight, all of which came during the first period. The forward had recorded a trio of helpers in a game once before – Oct. 25, 2006 vs. Washington. The most impressive part of his feat tonight? Svatos notched those three assists during only 3:04 of ice time in the first period (and only three seconds of that time came on the power play).

For the record, Svatos’ career high for points is four, coming on Oct. 10, 2005 vs. Calgary (3g/1a).

Wolski Finishing
After admittedly being frustrated by his lack of goal-production early in the season, Wojtek Wolski broke out tonight and tied his career high with two goals. The forward had recorded only two tallies in 21 contests this year prior to tonight’s game.

It marked the fourth time Wolski has recorded a pair of goals in his career, with the last coming on Dec. 9, 2007, in a 9-5 Avalanche victory over the St. Louis Blues.

“It’s really hard, you have to kind of control those rebounds, so I just tried to get my stick on it,” said Wolski about his first goal. “I’m happy with this game. Right now we’re going to look forward to the next game against Minnesota. It’s going to be a really hard game, especially with the rivalry we have against them.”

Arnason Chipping In
The third member of the line, Tyler Arnason, played a solid game as well. With two helpers, the center fell just short of tying his career high for assists in a game. Arnason had recorded three assists in a game on five separate occasions, most recently March 21, 2007, at Edmonton.

Arnason’s recent assist streak has been a welcome sight. After being held without an assist in the first 19 contests of the season, he now has four in the last three contests.

Take Note
Andrew Raycroft made his fourth start of the year tonight and first since Oct. 30 vs. Columbus…The Avs held a 31-20 shot advantage in the game…Malone’s third-period goal snapped a streak which saw the Avalanche kill off 21 consecutive penalties at home...Colorado is the only NHL team without an overtime or shootout loss.
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