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Avs end skid with win over Blues

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche has discovered that tough love can pay dividends.

One day after coach Joe Sacco put his players through a grueling practice that lasted nearly 90 minutes, the Avalanche defeated the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Monday night at the Pepsi Center to end a two-game losing streak and move back into eighth place in the Western Conference.

"It sent a message," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Coach Sacco told us before the game not to worry about the score at the end, just to focus on the process and start getting back to our game. That's what we did. We played simple, got pucks in and we used our speed."

Shattenkirk and fellow rookie Ryan Stoa scored third-period goals 44 seconds apart to give the Avalanche a 4-2 lead, but Colorado's sixth consecutive win against St. Louis didn’t come easy.

The Blues closed to within a goal when David Backes scored with 1:27 remaining with goalie Jaroslav Halak off for a sixth attacker, and Avalanche goalie Peter Budaj had to make a difficult pad save on Alexander Steen with 10 seconds left to preserve the win.

"We got it to within one and we had a couple of chances at the end, but chances don't get you points," said Blues coach Davis Payne, whose team has lost three games in a row and is in a 2-7-2 slump.

Shattenkirk broke a 2-2 tie at 10:34 of the third period with a power-play goal after Brad Boyes was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking Brandon Yip in the face.

Shattenkirk stepped around a sliding Blues defender into the left circle and, using the 6-foot-3 Stoa as a screen, fired the puck over Halak's right shoulder.

"I'm a big body and for some reason it ticks goalies off when you stand in front of them," Stoa said.

Shattenkirk, who ended a 17-game goal drought Saturday against Boston, credited Stoa for creating the scoring chance.

"It seems to be falling for me a little bit now," he said. "I'm getting some opportunities here and I'm just trying to take advantage of it. (Stoa) made the whole play. If he's not there, Halak comes out and I don't have an angle to shoot at. I just had a little bit of time and once I saw him in front of the net, I went for the shot."

Stoa, playing in his third game after being recalled from AHL Lake Erie in the American Hockey League on Wednesday, skated down the middle and shot a puck that barely trickled across the goal line at 11:18 before Blues defenseman Tyson Strachan swept it away with his stick.

A video review showed the puck completely crossed the line, but Stoa lost an apparent goal after a review Thursday against Nashville and was little concerned.

"It was definitely really close, so I wasn't completely sure that it was in," Stoa said. "I thought there was a good chance they might have called it off. This game is about bounces and I got one there."

Yip, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, ended a 13-game goal drought with two goals in a second period that ended in a 2-2 tie.

"I've been in a slump since Christmas," Yip said. "It's huge, not only just scoring goals, just playing the right way. I think everyone did that tonight. We showed a great effort."

Sacco liked Yip's game so much that he used him on a line with Stoa and Paul Stastny, replacing Chris Stewart, who was benched for the entire third period.

"I thought Yip had a strong game," Sacco said. "When he plays with that intensity, he's a very effective player. He had a good response. You get rewarded when you work hard."

Stewart has struggled since returning from a broken hand that caused him to miss 21 games. He has no goals, two assists and minus-3 rating in five games.

"The other guys were going," Sacco said of sitting Stewart. "I've always said I'm going to play the guys that I think are going to give us the best chance to win. We had other players that were playing well."

Yip opened the scoring at 1:21 of the second period with a long shot that slid between Halak’s pads after Ryan Wilson stole the puck along the boards.

The Blues responded with goals from Jay McClement and Eric Brewer to take a 2-1 lead.

McClement collected his first goal in 18 games at 7:52. Brad Boyes, who moments before was stopped by Budaj on a 2-on-1 rush, passed from the side of the net to McClement, who found the top right corner of the net.

Brewer scored at 13:08 from the slot, taking Boyes' centering pass and chipping the puck by Budaj's right arm.

The Avalanche tied the game at 17:06 on a power play when Yip came from behind the net and stuffed the puck inside the left post.

"We showed a lot of character and a lot of good things and it's a step in the right direction," Backes said. (But) steps in the right direction don't get you any points."
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