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Richardson's hat trick leads Kings past Avs

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- A hat trick is always a special accomplishment, but it was especially sweet Saturday night for Brad Richardson.

It was the first three-goal game for the Los Angeles Kings forward in his NHL career, the feat came against his former Colorado Avalanche teammates and it was the difference in a wild 6-4 win at the Pepsi Center.

"It does feel good to get it against your old team, for sure," said Richardson, who spent his first three NHL seasons with Colorado and was traded to Los Angeles in June 2008 for a second-round draft pick. "There are no hard feelings. It was great to play here. I loved being here, but it's a little sweeter."

Richardson's tie-breaking goal left a sour taste for Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson.

Colorado was in the late stages of a five-minute power play when Anderson left his crease to clear the puck off the boards. Jarret Stoll intercepted and fed Richardson, who fired the puck into the vacated net for a 5-4 lead with 6:56 remaining in the third period.

"We try to get as much up-ice pressure as we can, so I went at the goalie," Richardson said. "Stollie made a great read. He cut it off at the boards and Anderson was out of the net, so I basically just had to shoot at an empty net."

Richardson completed his hat trick with 2:55 to go following an Avalanche turnover.

Anderson, who made 24 saves, blamed himself for the defeat, the Avalanche's third in four games.

"The puck took a crazy bounce off the dump out," he said of the shorthanded goal. "Johnny (Liles) was trying to keep it in, it hit the glass funny and bounced over his head. I felt their guy coming with speed had an opportunity to beat our guy, so I played it.

"I tried to go up the wall with it and the guy knocked it down. The safe play would have been to just throw it in the corner and let our guys fight it out. I tried to make a big play and get it past their two forecheckers and it cost us the game.

"Obviously I wasn't very good. I let the team down and they deserve a lot better than that."

The Avalanche had tied the game 4-4 on Milan Hejduk's second goal of the game during the same power play after the Kings' Wayne Simmonds was handed a major penalty for butt-ending T.J. Galiardi, who lay on the ice for a few minutes but later was able to return.

"It's not often that you get a five-minute power play with eight minutes left in the third period when it's a tie game," said Kings center Anze Kopitar, who scored a first-period power-play goal that snapped his team's 0-for-16 slump with the man advantage. "So (Richardson's goal) was huge for us. Our power play came through a couple of times and that was huge for us."

Paul Stastny's two goals for the Avalanche included a first-period power-play goal, but special teams have been a sore spot for Colorado, which has allowed nine power-play goals this season -- and four shorthanded.

"You don't want to be giving up a short-handed goal, and we've been doing that a lot this year," Anderson said. "We've got to be better. It starts from me and it works its way out. If I'm better, the guys will be better."

The Avalanche hadn't permitted as many as six goals since a 6-2 loss at Phoenix on March 27 last season.

"Craig's been outstanding for us," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I'm sure he knows there's a few he'd like to have back tonight. Unfortunately, we got a bad break on their short-handed goal. It took a little bit of the wind out of our sails. Those are some of the breaks you get."

The Kings built a 4-2 lead in the second period on goals by Richardson at 4:58 and Dustin Brown on a power play at 17:15, but the Avalanche pulled within 4-3 at 18:10 when Stastny scored his second goal of the night with a shot from the slot that beat goalie Jonathan Quick (28 saves).

"It was back and forth, back and forth, and one bounce here or there and it's going to cost you," Stastny said. "These are always unpredictable games that you don't want to get into."

Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kopitar scored first-period goals for the Kings, as did Hejduk and Stastny for the Avalanche.

The Avalanche played without captain Adam Foote (concussion) and lost defenseman Scott Hannan to a head injury early in the second period. Hannan will be re-examined Sunday.

Liles contributed a third-period assist to extend his assist streak to eight games, matching the NHL record for consecutive games with an assist by a defenseman to start a season set by Ottawa's Filip Kuba in 2008-09.

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