COLUMBUS, Ohio - A week ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets beat Colorado in a wild, end-to-end game. On Wednesday night, they won again - this time with their defence.
Fredrik Norrena stopped 15 shots, and the Blue Jackets shut down the Avalanche en route to a 4-1 victory. "We were crisp and focused and patient," Norrena said. "We didn't play the game they wanted to play, to trade chances back and forth. They are really good at that."
Before the two recent wins, the Blue Jackets were 2-21-2 against Colorado in Columbus' franchise history.
"Last game, it was wide-open hockey; this game, it was not," said Colorado forward Milan Hejduk, who had four goals in two games and 14 points in a seven-game scoring streak that was snapped. "There weren't many scoring chances, there weren't many shots. It was kind of a frustrating game."
Kris Beech, Jared Boll, Manny Malhotra and Sergei Fedorov scored, but the Blue Jackets went more than 14 minutes without a shot and mustered only one in the second period. The teams finished with 16 each.
High-scoring Colorado, coming off a 9-5 win over St. Louis on Monday, was stifled in the offensive zone by an aggressive, checking Columbus defence. Ben Guite scored the Avalanche goal, with the line of Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny and Hejduk going scoreless after piling up 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in five games.
"They played well. You have to give them a lot of credit," Smyth said. "They weren't giving up a lot. We got behind the 8-ball and when we tried to gain some momentum, they capitalized and put us back on our heels."
Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock earned his 450th NHL victory in his 850th career game. He is 450-289-111 with Dallas, Philadelphia and Columbus, including 42-40-11 in slightly over a season with the Blue Jackets.
He declined to talk about his own milestone, but enjoyed discussing his team's effort.
"We knew we weren't going to win the game playing like we did the last game," he said. "We knew where our energy level was based on the amount of games we've played and the regularity of them coming up every second night. I was happy with the way we played the last 15 minutes. We seemed to get a second wind."
Midway through the opening period, Dan Fritsche dug the puck out of the corner and skated along the back boards. Malhotra crashed the net, skating along the goal line, a step ahead of a defender. Fritsche passed to him, and Malhotra chipped the puck high over goaltender Jose Theodore's shoulder for his fifth of the season.
Both teams scored on their first shots of the second period - also Columbus' only shot of the frame. Despite the offensive firepower on both teams, the goals came from unlikely sources.
The Avalanche tied it on Guite's second of the season, off a nifty pass from Andrew Brunette. John-Michael Liles flipped the puck on net, and it deflected to Brunette left of the goal. He faked a shot before saucering a pass to Guite at 3:07.
Boll scored his third - and first goal and point in 22 games - when he took a drop pass from Curtis Glencross and zipped a hard slap shot from between the circles off the leg of defenceman Scott Hannan to make it 2-1 at 11:32.
Colorado applied pressure at the outset of the third, but Beech came up with a big goal after taking the puck from defenceman Jeff Finger.
"We were doing a good job in our own end to begin with," said Beech, a free-agent signee who has three goals and four assists in seven games with Columbus. "To get an extra goal to increase the lead took a little bit of the pressure off."