CALGARY - Craig Anderson has shown he's perfectly comfortable as a starting goaltender in the NHL.
Just ask the Calgary Flames.
Anderson was spectacular Monday night, making 44 saves the Colorado Avalanche won 3-2 over the Flames in a shootout.
Chris Stewart, who also scored in regulation, had the shootout winner.
A one-time third round draft pick by Calgary in 1999 who chose not to sign with the Flames and go back into the draft, Anderson has been sensational in his first season with Colorado.
"It's been a snowball effect. You get one good game and you get back in there and you just get in a groove," said Anderson, whose previous six seasons were split between Florida and Chicago as a backup.
"There's no thinking involved, you're not wondering when you're going to get your next start, you just go out there and play. Ask any goaltender that's a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League, it's just rhythm, it's knowing that you're the guy they're counting on."
It's the fourth straight 3-2 victory for Colorado over Calgary in the season series and moves the Avalanche into a tie with Calgary atop the tightly contested Northwest Division.
"Forty-some shots on net and you keep the opposition to 20, it's disappointing to lose, I am not going to deny that," said Flames coach Brent Sutter. "There is no question who the better hockey team was tonight, No. 41 (Craig Anderson) was the difference in the game."
The shootout was tied 1-1 on goals by Milan Hejduk and Olli Jokinen when Stewart put the Avalanche ahead on a nifty deke, tucking the puck through the legs of Miikka Kiprusoff.
Anderson claimed his fourth victory over the Flames this season when Jamie Lundmark lost control of the puck, failing to get a shot on goal.
Although he didn't need to make the stop on that final shootout attempt, Anderson was the story as Calgary poured on the pressure most of the night including outshooting Colorado 17-4 in the third period and 5-1 in overtime.
"They got some momentum with the power play, put a lot of pucks on net. I just found ways to be big in the net and make some saves," said Anderson, who has already surpassed career highs for games (39) and wins (22).
Paul Stastny also scored for Colorado (26-15-6), which has won seven of its last nine road games.
Rene Bourque and Dustin Boyd replied for Calgary (26-14-6). The Flames are 6-2-1 in their last nine.
"We show up every time we play these guys," said Stewart. "Every time we play them we have a little bad taste in our mouth. It's a four-point game and these are the points that are going to count later on, down the stretch."
Flames captain Jarome Iginla was involved in several of the close calls in the third period. In one short stretch, the Flames captain slid a puck under Anderson but wide of an open net, he set up Daymond Langkow's dangerous one-timer that Anderson deflected away, and later he was stopped on a breakaway as he bowled his way to the net but could not jam the puck past Anderson.
Iginla drew a hooking penalty on the breakaway and with the extra man Calgary threatened but Anderson added a couple more spectacular stops, including a highlight reel blocker save off Mark Giordano.
"It came right to me and I thought I got a pretty good shot off but he got over pretty quick and got a piece of it," said Giordano. "Those are ones you'd like to put in and end it there but in saying that, that's how it goes. Sometimes you deserve the extra point and you don't get it and I thought that was the case tonight."
Calgary failed to convert on a 19-second five-on-three advantage it got in overtime when Stastny took a delay of game penalty.
Despite all the chances, the Flames finished 0-for-4 on the power play and are now 0-for-14 over the past five games.
Calgary led 2-0 in the second period when Stastny and Stewart struck three minutes apart to pull even, both goals coming on screen shots that Kiprusoff did not see.
The tone for the battle for first place in the Northwest Division was set early with three fights inside the opening four minutes.
The scrap that really stirred up the crowd a heavyweight bout between six-foot-six David Koci of the Avalanche and Calgary's six-foot-four Brian McGrattan, whose victory was acknowledged with a thunderous standing ovation from the sell-out crowd of 19,289.
With Calgary ahead 1-0, Brandon Prust and McGrattan made a rare appearance on the scoresheet combining to set up Boyd's sixth goal, which came off a McGrattan rebound.
It was the first point in 27 games for Prust and first in 23 for McGrattan.
Notes: Calgary has scored more than three goals just once in the past 20 games... The Avalanche do not return to action until Saturday night when they play the New Jersey Devils to open up a five-game homestand... Colorado captain Adam Foote (ankle) missed his second game... Calgary LW Fredrik Sjostrom was a healthy scratch for the second game in a row and remains at 399 career NHL games... Iginla is three assists away from tying Theoren Fleury for second on the Flames all-time list (466).