DENVER (AP) -- Skating well, winning games and perched in first
place, things are finally starting to get back to normal again for
the Colorado Avalanche.
Milan Hejduk scored a pair of power-play goals 34 seconds apart
to lift the Avs to their eighth straight win, a 5-3 victory over
Toronto on Tuesday night that pushed them into a tie for the
Northwest Division lead.
Rookie Marek Svatos scored his 27th goal of the season, best in
the Western Conference, to help Colorado match its longest winning
streak since Oct. 10-28, 2000.
"We're playing good hockey, we're on a roll and it's a lot of
fun," Hejduk said. "We're definitely enjoying it."
The Maple Leafs lost their third straight.
After struggling with their rebuilt lineup, then with an
assortment of goaltending problems, the Avalanche have found their
stride, right in time for the second half of the season.
Though they still only have the sixth-most points in the West,
they moved into a tie with Calgary and Vancouver in the Northwest.
That's a good sign for a team that won nine straight divisions and
was one of the best teams in hockey during the decade leading up to
this season's new collective bargaining agreement.
"We've really enhanced our position in the last week," coach
Joel Quenneville said. "It's better than hanging onto that eighth
or ninth position. Now, we're looking at taking the division. It's
a realistic objective."
If the Avs are going to continue to dominate, it will be with
players like Hejduk leading the way.
He was decisive and crisp in scoring his 12th and 13th goals of
the season, both from point-blank range. The first came off a pass
from Alex Tanguay on a 5-on-3 power play to tie the game at 2 with
11:52 left in the second. Moments later, Brett McLean found Hejduk
unhindered in front of the net on the 5-on-4 for the go-ahead
That score made Hejduk the first player to reach 100 goals at
the Pepsi Center, the home of the Avalanche since it opened prior
to the 1999-00 season. Hejduk had a shot at an open net for the hat
trick, but a Toronto defender deflected it with 10 seconds left.
Goalie David Aebischer, maligned earlier in the season while the
Avs were languishing in third and fourth place, has been in net for
the last seven Avalanche wins.
"When you win some games in a row, the panic gets out of the
way," defenseman Rob Blake said. "We know David's going to shut
it down for us now."
Abby gave up a bad goal to Jeff O'Neill after overcommitting on
a shot by Mats Sundin that hit the back boards and ricocheted out
to the other side of the net. That gave the Leafs a 2-1 lead early
in the second, but Aebischer was solid from there, finishing with
24 saves and allowing only one more goal, to Sundin with 5:16 left.
Jason Allison opened the scoring for Toronto, which matched its
longest losing streak of the season in the first of four straight
games on the road.
"Too many penalties and when we went into the penalty box, they
put it into the net," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "They were weak
penalties. And mistakes where we made a mistake with the puck and
either hooked somebody or got a stick up on someone. They are our
mistakes and double mistakes. Give the puck away and hook somebody
to cover up your mistake and we paid for it."
Ed Belfour made 26 saves in the losing effort. He was helpless
on Colorado's first goal, a Blake slap shot that was redirected by
Tanguay on the power play to tie the game at 1.
A few minutes after Hejduk's flurry, Cody McCormick also beat
Belfour for his first goal of the season and a 4-2 lead.
Due to NHL scheduling quirks, this was Toronto's first
visit to Denver since Dec. 15, 1997. ... Though he leads the
Western Conference with 27 goals, Svatos still only ranks ninth in
the entire league.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Arena: Pepsi Center Location: Denver, Colorado
Referees: Michael McGeough, Chris Rooney Linesmen: Ryan Galloway, Don Henderson
Attendance: 18,007 (100.0% full)
Team Stat Comparison
Power Play Goals
Power Play Opportunities
Shots on Goal
Jason Allison (8)
Assists: Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov
Alex Tanguay (20)
(Power Play) Assists: Rob Blake, John-Michael Liles
Jeff O'Neill (13)
Assists: Mats Sundin, Alexander Steen
Milan Hejduk (13)
(Power Play) Assists: Alex Tanguay, Joe Sakic
Milan Hejduk (13)
(Power Play) Assists: Brett McLean, Andrew Brunette
Cody McCormick (1)
Assists: Bob Boughner, Rob Blake
Marek Svatos (27)
Assists: Brad Richardson, Antti Laaksonen
Mats Sundin (10)
(Power Play) Assists: Tomas Kaberle, Carlo Colaiacovo