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Avalanche able to outscore Wild

by Brian Hunter
Minnesota Wild fans accustomed to coming to the Xcel Energy Center to see defensive hockey will long remember the 300th regular-season game in the arena's history for the unusual amount of offense that took place on the ice.

Paul Stastny scored twice and added an assist as the visiting Colorado Avalanche pulled out a 6-5 win in a game where both teams kept filling the nets, even after the final whistle. Benoit Pouilot swatted a bouncing puck in seconds after the final horn sounded, and the play was quickly ruled no goal.

The 11 combined goals tied a record for the most in a Wild game since the franchise began play in 2000 -- and predictably, it wasn't the type of game coach Jacques Lemaire was fond of watching.

"Worst two periods that I've seen," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said of the opening 40 minutes.

"We made so many mistakes there in the first and second and we lost confidence a bit."

Marek Svatos, David Jones. T.J. Hensick and Milan Hejduk also scored for Colorado, which set a single-game high this season for goals. The Avalanche entered as the second-lowest scoring team in the Western Conference and enjoyed the outburst against the NHL's top defensive club.

"You don't expect that. The last few years I've been here it's been 1-0, 2-1, 3-2," Stastny said. "We just went with it. All four lines were playing well."

Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a pair of goals for Minnesota, which saw Mikko Koivu, Owen Nolan and Brent Burns add scores.

It wasn't a great night to be a goaltender, although Wild backup Josh Harding stopped all five shots he faced in the third period. Harding relieved Niklas Backstrom, who was pulled after yielding six goals on 26 shots. Avalanche netminder Peter Budaj won despite turning aside just 12 of 17 shots.

"If Backstrom hadn't been good tonight, they would've scored 10," Lemaire said in absolving his goalie of any blame for the defeat.

After Bouchard scored on a power play 22 seconds into the middle period on to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead, Colorado responded with four straight goals over the next 18 minutes to take control of the game.

Stastny tied the score at 3:49, then Hejduk put the Avalanche ahead to stay with a power-play goal at the 8:16 mark. Hensick added his first of the season with 3:28 left in the second, and Stastny capped the rally 1:19 later with what turned out to be the winning goal.

"If you look at puck possession, time of possession, scoring chances and battles won and lost, I think we controlled that pretty much from start to finish," Colorado coach Tony Granato said. "Our speed was good tonight, and our support away from the puck was good as well."

Nolan got the Wild within two before period's end, scoring with 42 seconds left, and Burns cut further into the deficit by driving to the net and putting the puck past Budaj 14 minutes into the third.

Each team scored twice in the first period, as Bouchard and Koivu sandwiched goals for Minnesota around Colorado scores by Svatos and Jones. The Avalanche evened their record at 12-12-0 with the victory.

"We're back to .500, now we need to go from here," Stastny said. "I thought earlier we were playing well the last couple of games and we could get a string of wins but we got a big one here."

Predators 2, Sabres 0 | VIDEO

If some of the players appeared a little tired at times, it was for good reason: Nashville was playing for the third time in four nights, while Buffalo concluded a stretch of four games in six nights.

Pekka Rinne could care less about any of the details, other than the 30 saves he made to record his first NHL shutout. Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont scored 2:33 apart in the third period as the Predators won for the third time in five games.

''I've played in a lot of tight games, so this was pretty normal,'' said Rinne, who improved to 4-0 this season and 5-1 in his career. ''There wasn't any extra pressure on me. I just had to do my own job.''

The Sabres lost their second straight despite 25 saves by goaltender Ryan Miller. Ales Kotalik returned after missing seven games with a hamstring injury, but captain Craig Rivet had to be scratched just prior to the game because of an upper-body injury.

"I thought we would have got a little bit more out of our top lines, which we didn't," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "For 40 minutes it was like neither team was getting much out of anybody."

Nashville got Arnott's team-leading 13th goal at 8:07 of the third, as he chipped a loose puck over Miller while standing in front of the net. Arnott has goals in three straight games and four of the last five.

''That was one of the goals that was going to do it,'' Arnott said. ''It just wasn't happening for both ends. There was a lot of defensive plays."

Dumont, who drew the secondary assist on Arnott's goal, quickly made it 2-0 by tapping in the rebound of a Shea Weber shot Miller stopped. Dumont went diving to his left to put home his fifth of the season.

''That's definitely the type of game we have to play on the road,'' Dumont said. ''We worked hard for our goals, so it was a big win.''

Blue Jackets 3, Canucks 2 | VIDEO

Although it took almost two months into the season, Columbus finally won a game in which it didn't score the opening goal.

Rick Nash did the hard work and set up Kristian Huselius for the go-ahead goal with 4:44 remaining and rookie goaltender Steve Mason improved to 6-2-1 by making 29 saves as the Blue Jackets snapped an 0-6-3 skid when falling behind 1-0 in a game.

Mason kept the Canucks from forcing overtime with several late saves during a power play in which they also pulled Cory Schneider for a two-man advantage. Mason's highlight-reel save came on Kyle Wellwood when he stopped the puck with his glove on the ice.

"It was definitely long," Mason said of those final minutes. "Every time the puck was in the corner I'd take a quick glance to see how much time was left on the board and it wasn't ticking away fast enough. But we pulled it out and that was probably the biggest kill of the year so far."

Vancouver received power-play goals from Wellwood and Kevin Bieksa in taking a pair of one-goal leads, but Columbus rallied both times as Fredrik Modin and Andrew Murray answered.

Nash then carried the puck out of the corner with a pair of Canucks hanging all over him and was able to find Huselius uncovered at the right side of the crease for his ninth of the season.

"It was a great pass, a great effort," he said. "Rick caught two guys playing him and made a great pass to me and I just had to one-time it."

Said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault: "We lost (track of) a pretty good player and he found a way to make a great play."

Schneider allowed three goals on 18 shots after Curtis Sanford made 11 saves during a flawless first period but then had to leave with back spasms.

Maple Leafs 3, Kings 1 | VIDEO

Matt Stajan and Mikhail Grabovski scored power-play goals 1:21 apart early in the third period to rally Toronto to its second straight win since Brian Burke took over as president and general manager.

Jeff Finger scored into an empty net with less than 10 seconds remaining and Vesa Toskala stopped 32 shots for the Maple Leafs.

"The early part of the game was a matter of us going post to post and finding our legs.  The Kings were all over, but once we settled down we got back into our 'throw-the-puck-back-into-the-net' kind of a game. Obviously, we got some huge saves and with goaltending like that you have a very good chance of winning" -- Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson
"Vesa kept us in there and I think you give him a lot of credit there for the whole game," Finger said. "He gave us some time to get our legs back and he kind of answered in the second and third."

Alexander Frolov got Los Angeles on the board just 57 seconds after the opening drop of the puck, but that was all the offense the Kings could muster as they lost for the first time in eight games this season when leading after two periods.

"We can't be giving up goals on the PK," said defenseman Matt Greene, who assisted on Frolov's goal. "That's it, our PK's got to be a little bit better and we've got to be able to get those kills."

It took just 12 seconds of the third for the Kings to put themselves behind the 8- ball, as Sean O'Donnell was whistled for tripping. Dustin Brown was hit with the same penalty at 1:59 and the Leafs were able to capitalize on a brief 5-on-3 advantage as Stajan scored off a goalmouth scramble at 2:09 to tie the score.

Grabovski then converted on the remaining penalty time to Brown by netting the go-ahead goal off a superb feed by John Mitchell.   

"The early part of the game was a matter of us going post to post and finding our legs," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "The Kings were all over, but once we settled down we got back into our 'throw-the-puck-back-into-the-net' kind of a game. Obviously, we got some huge saves and with goaltending like that you have a very good chance of winning."

Frolov had the lone goal of the first 40 minutes, taking the puck from Greene after he intercepted Stajan's dump-in pass, splitting the defense and putting a backhander past Toskala.

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.

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