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Giguere makes 37 saves as Avs edge Blues

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER – It took nearly a month, but the Colorado Avalanche finally have reached the break-even point again.

The Avalanche needed 37 saves from goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere and a fluke goal by center Jay McClement to defeat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night for their seventh consecutive home win, matching the team record since it has been in Colorado.

"It's been a good sequence -- there's no question -- and we've done it against quality opponents," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said after his team reached the .500 mark (17-17-1) for the first time since Dec. 4. "We're starting to build something here at home. It's positive."

The Avalanche seemed to hang on for dear life at times in the third period, when the Blues had an 11-1 advantage in shots. The Avalanche's only shot in the period came from defenseman Shane O'Brien on a power play with 2:02 remaining.

The regulation loss was just the third for the Blues in 20 games (13-3-4) since Ken Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne as coach on Nov. 8.

The Avalanche needed a fortunate goal to break a 2-2 tie in the second period after the Blues wiped out a 2-0 deficit with goals by David Backes and Chris Stewart.

Jay McClement was credited with the goal against his former Blues teammates at 14:07 when his backhanded pass in the slot for David Van Der Gulik went off sliding defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, whose momentum pushed the puck across the goal line. Pietrangelo and teammate Matt D'Agostini bowled into goalie Brian Elliott and the net came loose.

A lengthy review showed the puck crossed the line before the net came off its moorings. It was just the second time in 17 games this season that a team managed to score more than two goals against Elliott, who began the night with a League-best 1.43 goals-against average.

"I'll take it," said McClement, who also helped the Avalanche kill off all four of the Blues power plays. "I wasn't sure if it would stand up. I knew the puck crossed, but it took that long so it must have been close. I knew the post closest to me was still on. That's the way it goes sometimes. It was an ugly one, but I'll take it.

"It's always nice to get one against your old team, for sure. More importantly, it's a win and it keeps this little streak we got going here alive."

Elliott, who struggled last season while splitting time with Ottawa and the Avalanche, finished with 19 saves and had no chance to prevent the winning goal.

"It was a 2-on-1 and guys were diving back trying to block the pass across and (McClement) tried to pass it through the d-man," Elliott said. "They slid right into me. It was lucky, just laying there for them."

The Avalanche needed another strong effort from Giguere, who has stopped 98 of 103 shots during a personal three-game winning streak, not that he was taking much credit for his success.

"Our 'D,' I think, has been our best group so far this year," said Giguere, who pocketed his seventh win in 11 decisions this season and his 238th career victory, tying Jocelyn Thibault for 51st place on the all-time list. "They have been very constant for us. They are a big, mobile 'D' and they move the puck well. When they are on top of their game, it is tough to beat them."

The Blues dominated most of the second period and tied the game 2-2 at 9:10 when Stewart scored against his former team. He moved to the front of the net, accepted a pass from Patrik Berglund and flipped the puck over Giguere's left pad.
Giguere slammed his stick against the ice in disgust after Backes scored at 3:01 with an unscreened shot from high in the left circle that sailed by the goalie's glove.

"We kind of fell into a bad habit like a lot of teams do when you have a lead," said center Paul Stastny, who scored a first-period goal. "We kind of stepped back and Jiggy played pretty strong behind us."

The Avalanche killed three penalties and took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Stastny and Cody McLeod.

Stastny scored at 3:52 when he deflected Matt Hunwick's point shot past Elliott. Stastny has three goals and two assists in five games after missing three games with a torso injury. Hunwick, playing in his seventh game, picked up his first point with the assist.

The Avalanche scored 1:21 later after Kevin Porter dumped the puck to Elliott, who pushed it right to McLeod at the bottom of the left circle. McLeod shot it past Elliott's left skate at 5:13 for his second goal in the past three games.

"They came at us early, got a couple of lucky bounces, and they worked for their bounces," Elliott said.

Colorado spent much of the rest of the period killing penalties, which included a two-man disadvantage for 14 seconds. Of the Blues' 14 shots, nine came on power plays.

"We got off to such a good start to the game," Sacco said. "I thought we were really ready to take the hinges off the gate. We got into some penalty trouble, which turned the momentum quite a bit. At some point in the second period we started to recreate the momentum for ourselves. Obviously our goalie made some big saves. He was solid tonight again for us. He's come in and played very well."
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