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Avalanche 2, Sabres 1, SO @NHL

DENVER (AP) -The Colorado Avalanche made sure they had a full two points to show for another strong performance.

Ryan Smyth, Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski scored shootout goals for Colorado, and goalie Peter Budaj stopped Clarke MacArthur on Buffalo's last chance in the tiebreaker to give the Avalanche a 2-1 victory Saturday night.

It was the Avalanche's fifth straight win after they opened with three losses.

"These are the games and stretches that can make a difference down the stretch," Smyth said. "Winning these two points makes a difference."

Alex Kotalik and Derek Roy scored shootout goals for the Sabres.

Something had to give in this matchup. Coming into the game, the Avalanche were averaging an NHL-best four goals a game, and Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller had a 5-0-0 record with a 1.74 goals-against average, tops in the NHL.

Miller kept Colorado scoreless until Jordan Leopold's shot from the point deflected off two Sabres and past him to tie it at 1 with 6:24 left in regulation.

"We had our opportunities and one of them went in," Leopold said. "It wasn't pretty but we'll take it."

Miller stopped 28 shots for Buffalo, but that one regulation goal had him boiling after the game. Miller said Smyth hit the knob of his stick and knocked him off-balance and unable to make a play on Leopold's shot.

"Everyone knows Ryan Smyth comes through and hits the goalie's knob," Miller said. "I told the ref, 'I don't want the contact. I don't need a penalty, I just don't want the contact.' He comes by and twists me out of position. That was a slow-moving puck that I could reach if I'm set. I had the ice, I was there first. Don't touch me."

Miller protested, but he said his pleas to the referee fell on deaf ears.

"He rolled his eyes and skated away," he said. "Pretty standard."

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff agreed with Miller's protest after seeing the replay.

"I don't like it either after watching it," Ruff said. "It's a tough call. It's a patented Ryan Smyth. It's a great play if you get away with it."

Until that goal, it looked as if Miller was going to get his first shutout of the season and eighth of his career. He withstood a hard charge for most of the third period, and his best stop came when he made a diving glove save on Hejduk on a Colorado power play early in the third period.

Later in the third, he made a left pad save on David Jones, who was alone in front of the net after a faceoff in the Buffalo zone.

A few minutes later, Leopold tied it with his second goal of the season.

"Miller made some saves when they had to have them and the energy in the building was like a game in May or June," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "This was a playoff game in October."

The Avalanche controlled the play early in the second period, producing three scoring chances and their first power-play opportunity of the night.

Colorado couldn't cash in on the advantage, but Daniel Paille did a few minutes after the Sabres killed off MacArthur's slashing penalty. Paille redirected a pass from Tony Lydman that trickled through the legs of Budaj midway through the game.

"They got the lead, but our team persevered," said Budaj, who had 29 saves. "We kept on coming, kept on coming in the third period. Miller was playing great, made some big saves, but we persevered, we got the bounce in the third and won."

Buffalo saw its modest two-game winning streak come to a bitter end.

"To work that hard and to have a chintzy little play be the difference to get it into overtime, it's pretty brutal," Miller said.

Notes: Avalanche D Adam Foote left the game early in the first period after getting hit with a shot on the right leg. He returned later in the period. ... Sabres D Henrik Tallinder suffered a laceration on his lower leg in the first period and did not return. ... Avalanche C Paul Stastny failed to register a point for the first time this season. His seven-game points streak to start the season was the longest in franchise history since Joe Sakic scored in Colorado's first eight games at the start of the 1999-2000 campaign.

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