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Avalanche 6, Coyotes 4 @NHLdotcom

DENVER (AP) - Jose Theodore couldn't ask for much more. He was seeing the puck well, survived a pair of two-man advantages and his new teammates were scoring in bunches at the other end.

Then things kind of fizzled - three goals in the final 8 minutes.

Sure, it was a disappointing finish, but Theodore won his first game as Colorado's starter and that's all that really mattered.

"He got some deflections that were unfortunate, but tonight the way he moved on the 5-on-3 was a great illustration of what he is capable of and he kept us in the game," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said after Colorado's 6-4 win over Phoenix on Tuesday night. "His addition to the lineup is great for the enthusiasm of our group. We expect him to give us the contribution of a top-notch goaltender."

Theodore's sometimes shaky first start was good enough for the Avalanche, which needed a win after an inconsistent two weeks had put them in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since moving to Denver in 1995.

Colorado had split its previous eight games, dropping to seventh in the Western Conference, two points ahead of eighth-place Edmonton. With the victory over the Coyotes in their home finale, the Avalanche moved a point ahead of San Jose for the sixth spot, with road games against Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton left on the schedule.

Colorado did it with lots of early offense, scoring six goals in the first 29 minutes, including three with a man advantage.

Alex Tanguay scored on his first shift after coming off the injured list and added an assist, and Andrew Brunette and Brett Clark also had a goal and assist each for the Avs.

"It was a big win for us," said Colorado's Ian Laperriere, who scored his 21st goal in the second period.

The Avalanche traded David Aebischer to Montreal for Theodore last month to give them a veteran goalie for the playoffs. Theodore had been out since Jan. 31 because of a broken heel and was supposed to start against Phoenix, but was called into action Sunday when Peter Budaj gave up two goals on three shots against Minnesota.

Theodore's new teammates didn't make it easy on him in his first start.

Colorado was called for six penalties in the first period, twice giving Phoenix two-man advantages that lasted nearly 2 minutes combined. Theodore didn't budge, making his best saves midway through, turning away Zybnek Michalek from the point and Fredrik Sjostrom on the rebound during a power play.

"The first period with all those penalties it was a real test for our team and for ourselves," Theodore said. "I felt really good."

It wasn't until late in the game that Theodore started having problems.

Mike Ricci scored Phoenix's first goal with 44 seconds left in the second period, redirecting a shot by Derek Morris on a power play. Morris then scored his fifth goal of the season with just under 8 minutes left in the game and Mike Comrie followed with his 30th 61 seconds later. Josh Gratton capped the scoring with 95 seconds left with his first career goal.

But the late outburst wasn't good enough for coach Wayne Gretzky. He walked past reporters with his head down on his way to the team bus and didn't stop.

"We know we have to play every single night and have to play right off in the hockey game," assistant coach Barry Smith said. "You can't come into this building and just go at it half (way). You have to go at a full go. There are things to play for. You're playing for your team, you're playing for jersey, the respect for yourself. You are hockey players."

Defense was Phoenix's biggest problem.

Tanguay, out since March 19 with a knee injury, opened the scoring 68 seconds into the game, stealing the puck from Michalek near the red line and beating Philippe Sauve on the breakaway for his 27th of the season.

Clark added a power-play goal midway through, then Milan Hejduk got his 24th of the year on another power play with 63 seconds left, one-timing a nifty, close-range pass from Brunette.

Laperriere made it 4-0 just 38 seconds into the second period, redirecting a shot from Clark at the point, and Brunette got his career-high 24th goal just over 7 minutes later on a power play.

Phoenix was even putting pucks into its own net.

Pierre Turgeon was credited with his 15th goal at 8:57 of the second, when he shoveled a pass to the front of the net and Phoenix's Paul Mara one-timed it past Sauve as he tried to clear the puck off the boards.

That one wasn't Sauve's fault, but it was enough for Gretzky, who replaced him with David Leneveu.

"It was frustrating from the opening faceoff," said Sauve, a former Avs backup. "We knew what we were up for. We knew the circumstances and still got off to a bad start. Against a team like that, it makes it tough."

Notes: Colorado has won six straight against the Coyotes. ... Colorado's Joe Sakic had his points streak end at 13 games, leaving him one short of his career high.

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