BOSTON (AP) - Left for also-ran status just a week ago, the Colorado Avalanche are suddenly back in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Peter Budaj stopped 21 shots and Brett Clark broke a scoreless deadlock in the third period to lift the Avalanche to their fourth straight win, 2-0 over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
Milan Hejduk scored an empty-net goal and added an assist for the Avalanche, 3-0 on a season-high, five-game road trip. Colorado, ninth in the West, pulled to eight points behind Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Wild lost to San Jose 3-0 on Tuesday.
Colorado has gained six points on Minnesota during its winning streak, and will play the Wild twice more this season. The Avalanche trail Calgary - which beat St. Louis 4-2 on Tuesday - by 10 points for seventh place in the conference. Colorado has three games remaining against the Flames.
"We've got to make a great run," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're playing the teams we have to catch, so we control our own destiny. But we still have to win almost every game."
If Budaj keeps playing the way he has, that shouldn't be a problem.
Budaj, chosen as the NHL's No. 3 star for last week, made seven saves in each period to record his third shutout of the season and fifth of his career.
He stopped Mark Mowers on a breakaway in the closing seconds of the first period, then made a glove save on Glen Murray's one-timer early in the second to thwart Boston's two best scoring chances.
"We just didn't create in the offensive zone," Boston centre Patrice Bergeron said. "We stood around instead of going to the net. Tonight, we weren't crashing the net."
Tim Thomas stopped 28 shots for the Bruins, whose two-game winning streak ended. Boston is 12th in the East, four places and four points behind eighth-place Carolina.
"Tonight was an important game," Thomas said. "Four points out of the playoffs going in, it could have been two if we got the win. We had a chance to pick up some points tonight, and we didn't get the job done."
The Avalanche outshot the Bruins 19-14 in the scoreless first 40 minutes before Clark finally snapped the tie 2:57 into the third when he retrieved Hejduk's pass and fired a slap shot from just beyond the right circle through a crowd and past Thomas.
Paul Stastny also assisted on the goal, tying the franchise record for consecutive games with a point for a rookie (16). Stastny's dad, Peter, also had points in 16 straight games during the 1980-81 season, when the Avalanche were the Quebec Nordiques.
Stastny, whose point streak is an NHL best this season, is one game away from tying Teemu Selanne's NHL rookie record, set in 1992-93.
"Stastny has done everything right for us," Avalanche captain Joe Sakic said. "He plays like a seasoned veteran. He's got that hockey sense you can't teach."
Hejduk sealed the victory with 39 seconds left, scoring his 26th goal.
Notes: It was Colorado's first game in Boston since beating the Bruins 3-2 in overtime on Feb. 4, 2003. ... Colorado D Karlis Skrastins missed his fifth game with a knee injury. ... Boston fell to 3-1 against Northwest Division teams this season and 4-2-2 against the Western Conference. ... F Chuck Kobasew made his debut with the Bruins. Kobasew was traded from Calgary to Boston on Feb. 10, but had been out with an elbow injury. ... Colorado killed all five of Boston's power-play opportunities and has killed 15 straight power plays overall.