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Stastny leads Avs past Stars in 2-1 win

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- In a game between two teams chasing a Western Conference playoff berth, the Colorado Avalanche showed the kind of resilience they'll need to make the postseason.

The Avs allowed Dallas to score the tying goal early in the third period, but a tip-in by Paul Stastny with 9:25 remaining in regulation proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at the American Airlines Center on Saturday.

It was a big win for the Avs, who lost both ends of a home-and-home series with Nashville earlier in the week.

"I felt a lot better about our game in the third. It's pretty hard to shut out teams in this League," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "They (Dallas) got a goal and in pretty typical fashion, they make an extra push after the goal but I like the way we responded."

Stastny had a goal and an assist for Colorado, which won for first time in four games.

"I thought it was a good game for him," Sacco said of his No. 1 center. "We got that good start to the game, got a quick goal in the first period. He set it (the first goal) up with a nice play. The timing was huge on the power play goal. We needed it to deliver and it did."

The Avs (24-20-2) struck first 10:25 into the game when David Jones flipped a backhand into the back of the net following a miscue by Kari Lehtonen. The Stars' goaltender misplayed the puck behind his own net and Stastny quickly fed Jones, who converted for his ninth of the season.

"It just wobbled over my stick," Lehtonen said. "I had plenty of other ones there in the first period that I didn't play the way I wanted, but that one was just my mistake and you need to eliminate those. "

While Colorado finished the opening 20 minutes with seven shots on goal, Dallas (24-18-1) could only muster a season-low one, a long wrister midway through the period that was denied by Colorado goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"I thought it took us a while to get going," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "It took us a while to get our legs under us. I think it was tough coming off the trip here to get going."

At 2:21 of the second, the Avs' Stefan Elliott was whistled for tripping, the first penalty of the game. Dallas delivered three shots on goal with the man advantage, but none found the back of the Colorado net.

Giguere came up with several huge stops in the second, including a diving save on a Jamie Benn backhand at 10:10 and denying a long wrister by Dallas captain Brenden Morrow less than 20 seconds later.

Dallas did get even at 5:26 of the third on Vernon Fiddler's sixth goal of the season. The Stars' third-line center grabbed a rebound of a Radek Dvorak shot that landed behind the Colorado net, skated around the right side and poked in a backhander.

But after Steve Ott took a hooking penalty at 10:22, Colorado wasted little time in making the Stars pay. Stastny tipped a blast by Erik Johnson from the right circle between Lehtonen's legs for the eventual game-winner just 13 seconds into the power play.

Giguere finished with 21 saves in the win, while Lehtonen stopped 21 of 23 in a losing effort.

"We had a good effort tonight, I think a good 60 minutes and a good first period, which was a key for us," Giguere said. "We knew that maybe they would be a little tired from the road trip, so it was important to have a good start and I thought it was just a good road game."

Lehtonen left the ice for an extra attacker with 1:30 remaining. Just 12 seconds later, Colorado's Jason Winnik went to the box for high sticking, giving Dallas one last opportunity to force overtime. The Stars generated several shots with the extra attacker, but it was Michael Ryder not being able to get a shot off with the right side of the net open with 19 seconds remaining that might have been the biggest story. Dallas had no additional shots on goal after that chance.

"To kill that penalty off at the end was obviously huge for us. We've got some guys out there digging in, really battling on the penalty kill, which is a good sign," Sacco said.
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