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Avalanche roll to 5-1 victory against Blue Jackets

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER - The Colorado Avalanche have to be feeling a lot better about its goaltending situation now that Peter Budaj is feeling more comfortable in the crease.

With Craig Anderson on injured reserve after injuring his right knee on Tuesday, Budaj made his third consecutive start Saturday night and made 33 saves in the Avs' 5-1 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Pepsi Center.

It was easily Budaj's most impressive outing of the season. Forty-eight hours after he yielded five goals on 19 shots in a 6-5 win in Calgary, Budaj turned stopped all but one of 34 shots by the Blue Jackets, whose winning streak ended at three games.

"He was awesome tonight," said Avalanche assistant Sylvain Lefebvre, who addressed reporters because coach Joe Sacco is ill and left the arena shortly after the game ended. "He was solid and square to the puck. He made some big saves for us

"It's great for Peter, too, because he knew he could have played better in Calgary. It was a great rebound for him."

Budaj improved his record to 3-0-1 , lowered his goals-against average to 3.43 and raised his save percentage to .875.

After starting just 11 times last season while playing behind Anderson, who set a team record with 71 appearances, Budaj is getting adjusted to his new role.

"But it's a positive adjustment and it definitely feels good," said Budaj, who picked up his 89th career win, tying him with David Aebischer for third place on the Quebec/Colorado all-time list for goalies. "You don't want to see anybody get hurt. It's unfortunate for Andy and hopefully he's going to come back soon. On the other hand, every goalie wants to play and this is a chance for me to do what I know I can do, to help the team win hockey games.

"We won the game In Calgary, but I wasn't sharp and the team played really well in front of me and battled for me. Tonight I was able to read the shots and make some saves. Hopefully I have many more to come."

Budaj made a number of tough saves, including a glove stop on a Rick Nash breakaway in the second period. He lost his bid for a shutout at 8:37 of the third period when Columbus' Derick Brassard scored a power-play goal.

"He was a little rusty in Calgary," center Paul Stastny said of Budaj. "When you get the win, it's always a confidence boost. He knows how to bounce back, and he was unbelievable tonight. It was unfortunate that he couldn't get a shutout, but he made some big saves for us."

The Avalanche's top line of Milan Hejduk, Stastny and Chris Stewart provided plenty of offensive support, combining for 2 goals and 4 assists.

"When our line's clicking, we're getting chances," Stastny said. "It's good to get some scoring, but at the same time giving up just one goal was important for us."

Colorado also got goals from David Jones, Cody McLeod and David Liffiton, his first in the NHL.

The Avalanche turned a 1-0 game into a four-goal contest in the second period, scoring three times to chase Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason, who allowed four goals on 19 shots.

Liffiton, a 26-year-old defenseman playing in his fifth NHL game, scored at the 10-minute mark and Stastny followed 44 seconds later to make it 4-0. Liffiton connected with a long slap shot and Stastny swept the puck by Mason while he was being knocked down in the left circle by Jackets defenseman Kris Russell.

Mason was replaced at that point by Mathieu Garon, who stopped 11 of 12 shots.

"I just put my head up and found a lane to the net and just shot as hard as I could," Liffiton said of his goal. "It was a pretty great feeling when I saw it go in."

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Jones at 4:14 of the first period. Scott Hannan fired a shot from the right point and Hejduk passed the rebound to Jones for a shot from just inside the left hash marks.

"We knew they were going to come out hard," Mason said. "They have some good players up front and we kind of fell back on our heels and gave up a fairly quick goal and never recovered."

Stewart's goal during a 5-on-3 power play 50 seconds into the second period gave Colorado a 2-0 lead. Hejduk cranked a shot off the left post and the puck caromed to Stastny on the right side. Stastny shot it in front and Stewart banged the puck home.

McLeod hiked the lead to 5-0 at 6:06 of the third period when his shot bounced into the net off the skate of defenseman Anton Stralman.

Stewart, who turned 23 Saturday, has 8 goals and 6 assists in an eight-game point-scoring streak. Hejduk has 3 goals and 8 assists in a six-game streak.
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