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Avs surge back into tie for first in Northwest

by Todd Kimberley
CALGARY -- The Colorado Avalanche, according to defenseman Scott Hannan, "find a new hero every night."

On Monday, though, it was one of the usual suspects.

Goaltender Craig Anderson, the unequivocal first-half MVP for the Avalanche this season, was again sensational between the pipes -- stopping 44 shots and leading Colorado to a come-from-behind, 3-2 shootout victory over the host Calgary Flames before 19,289 fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

"There's no question who the better hockey team was tonight," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. "No. 41 was the difference in the game."

Milan Hejduk and Chris Stewart scored shootout goals for the Avs, while Olli Jokinen was the only Flames shooter to solve Anderson at the other end. Calgary's Jamie Lundmark, the shootout hero in the Flames' 3-2 win at Vancouver on Saturday, had a chance to send the penalty-shot tiebreaker to a fourth round, but the puck rolled off his stick as he went from backhand to forehand.

The Avs (26-15-6) have won all four meetings against the Flames (26-14-6) this season, and moved into a first-place tie with Calgary atop the Northwest Division standings.

The Vancouver Canucks (27-17-2), the other entry in this three-horse race for the Northwest title, remain two points back after dropping a 3-2 home date to the Nashville Predators on Monday night.

Anderson turned aside 18 second-period shots, and 17 more in the third, when the Flames outshot the Avs 17-4.

The 28-year-old from Park Ridge, Ill., made an astounding blocker save on Lundmark's point-blank rebound with the Flames nursing a 2-1, second-period lead. He also got his blocker on a chance by Mark Giordano, who rushed up the left side for a power-play rebound in the third period.

And Nigel Dawes probably had fitful slumbers on Monday night after being thwarted by Anderson at least three times from close range.

Calgary, which squandered a 2-0 lead, outshot Colorado 14-1 through the first 11 minutes of the third period, but Anderson stood tall for his 22nd win of the campaign.

"They've got a lot of offensive talent over there. Some good defensemen over there, too, who jump into the rush," Anderson said. "They're a tough team to play against, and for us, getting down by a couple of goals, we had to do everything we could to get back into the game.

"The guys are resilient, consistently. We find ways to stay in the game and battle back."

The Avs have defeated the Flames by an identical 3-2 score four times in a row, with two games left in the season series. In winning all three games this season at Calgary, Colorado rallied from scores of 2-0 on Oct. 28, 2-1 on Nov. 17, and 2-0 again on Monday.

Colorado, which had also prevailed in a shootout Saturday at Buffalo, has back-to-back victories for the first time since Dec. 30, while Calgary has dropped three of four after a season-high, five-game win streak from Dec. 28 through Jan. 5.

"I thought we responded well. We battled hard," Hannan said. "It was a hard-fought game, back and fourth. We're getting big games from a lot of different guys."

Three fights were already in the books when the game was less than four minutes old, with pairings of Robyn Regehr and Stewart, Brian McGrattan and David Koci, and Brandon Prust and Cody McLeod dropping the gloves.

Daymond Langkow staked the Flames to a 1-0 lead 15:24 into the first by setting up Rene Bourque for his third goal in as many games. Dustin Boyd doubled the advantage at 3:59 of the second period, as the Flames' energetic fourth line made it 2-0. It was Boyd's first goal since Dec. 15, a span of 13 games.

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