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Avs blank Stars

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER – If there is such a thing as a perfect game in hockey, the Colorado Avalanche played it Sunday night.

Four players scored goals, the special teams were superb and goalie Craig Anderson was solid in the Avalanche's season-high sixth consecutive win, a 4-0 decision over the Dallas Stars at the Pepsi Center.

The only downer: Avalanche coach Joe Sacco became ill during the game, left for home shortly after it ended and wasn't available to talk about his surging team.

The Avalanche have outscored opponents 22-7 during the streak, 15-2 in the first four games of a five-game homestand and regained a two-point lead (66-64) over Vancouver in what is turning into a hotly-contested Northwest Division race.

"We just have to keep rolling," said T.J. Galiardi, who scored a shorthanded goal in the first period and helped kill off four Dallas power plays. "It's going well right now, but we can't get complacent. Guys are stepping up in different ways and playing their roles, and Andy is playing solid.

"We're having a lot of fun in the room, but we're not too loose or overconfident. We're playing a complete game and when we do that, we get results."

The Stars won three of their previous four games but have encountered all sorts of problems on the road, where they have gone 1-9-2 in their past dozen contests away from the American Airlines Center.

Dallas has been plagued by sloppy defense and undisciplined play on the road, problems that continued Sunday.

"Team defense is all about hard work," said Stars goalie Marty Turco, who faced 36 shots. "It's just an attitude. We need an attitude adjustment. (Colorado) is a good team. They do a lot of good things; they work their tails off and support each other. Those are things that we want to do."

Aside from the shorthanded goal, the Avalanche got power-play goals from Brett Clark and Paul Stastny.

"We talked about special teams before the game, how important they were going to be against these guys," Galiardi said. "Obviously, it worked out well."

The Avalanche, who went 2-for-5 with the man advantage, scored 10 seconds into its initial power play when Clark ripped a long shot past Turco at 5:16 of the first period for his first goal since Oct. 13.

Galiardi made it 2-0 at 11:30 with teammate Scott Hannan serving a holding penalty.

Galiardi stopped the puck along the boards in front of the Avalanche bench and raced down right wing with Stars center Brad Richardson in hot pursuit. He got off a shot that Turco stopped and put in the rebound for the Avalanche's fifth shorthanded goal of the season.

"I poked the puck by their 'D' along the wall," Galiardi said. "I had a breakaway pretty much from my own end. I sort of saw (Richards) catching up on me from the side, so I got a shot off quick and the rebound came right to me."

The two-goal lead was more than enough for Anderson, who finished with 27 saves for his 26th win and fifth shutout, both career highs.

"Personal records are second to the team winning," he said. "The two points are what really matters. Shutouts are a direct correlation to how the team is playing. We did everything to the book that we wanted to. We stuck to our system and to our game plan. For the most part, we really took the wind out of their sails."

Anderson has been in the crease for all six games of the winning streak, posting a 1.14 goals-against average and a .965 save percentage.

"We've just been playing great the last few games, making my job a lot easier," he said. "When my job looks easier, it means the guys in front of me are doing their job. They're blocking shots and making plays."

The Avalanche caught a break shortly before Chris Stewart scored his team-leading 17th goal for a 3-0 lead at 8:54 of the second period.

A puck shot by the Avalanche hit linesman Mark Shewchyk just across the Stars blue line. Instead of a possible icing, the Avalanche gained possession when the puck bounced to Wojtek Wolski. He passed to Stastny, who fed Stewart in the right circle.

"I looked up and thought it was going to be an icing," Stewart said. "Then it hit (the linesman) and that put us on a 3-on-2. I just tried to put it on net and it beat Turco."

Stastny closed out the scoring with a power-play goal at 12:36 of the third period. John-Michael Liles fired a shot that ricocheted off the end boards to Stastny, who banked the puck in off Turco.

"I just tried to throw it in front and I got lucky," Stastny said. "When you're playing well, sometimes the bounces go your way. Everyone is pulling in the same direction and we're having fun."
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