It took 15 games for Peter Budaj to get his chance to play. Colorado's backup goaltender made the most of his opportunity.
The combination of Craig Anderson's brilliance and a bout of swine flu kept Budaj out of the crease in October. But he began November by stopping 28 shots in his first start of the season, leading the Avalanche to a 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes
on Wednesday night.
"It was a good win for Peter," coach Joe Sacco said. "I'm really happy for him."
Milan Hedjuk scored twice and Paul Stastny
had three assists as the Avs (11-3-2) snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 5-0-0 at the Pepsi Center.
Budaj was brilliant, allowing only Ed Jovanovski's power-play goal 9:52 into the third period. That made it 2-1, but Budaj made a couple of big stops on Matthew Lombardi before David Jones
hit the empty net in the final minute and Hedjuk added his second of the night.
"We've got to bury those chances," Lombardi said. "Couldn't make it happen."
Despite the layoff, Budaj showed no signs of rust.
"I felt great and the communication was great," Budaj said. "After a couple of saves you relax, you know you've been there ... Get back to basics and not do anything crazy."
Budaj was scheduled to make his first start Oct. 23 against Carolina, but was scratched due to flu-like symptoms. It turned out to be swine flu, causing Budaj to miss four games.
With Budaj back and healthy, Anderson finally got a night off after making a franchise-record 15 straight starts to begin the season -- and being named the NHL's First Star for October. But Sacco quickly squelched any talk of a goaltending controversy.
"I go on a game-by-game basis, and right now Craig's done a good job for us," Sacco said.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 25 saves as the Coyotes dropped their second straight game.
"It was a pretty lackluster effort on our part for the better part of two periods," Jovanovski said.
The Avalanche scored a power-play goal just 57 seconds into the game when Hejduk tipped in Kyle Quincey
's slap shot from the blue line. That was the game's only goal until Marek Svatos jammed in a loose puck 6:43 into the third period.
"At times, we were a little slow but Budaj played unbelievable and kept us in," Stastny said. "He's the main reason we were up one goal going into the third."