Phoenix at Colorado

Back from swine flu, Budaj gets win in first start of season for Avs

CBSSports.com wire reports
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DENVER -- Feeling much better after a recent bout with swine flu, Peter Budaj made his long-awaited season debut.

Not that many were on hand to see it.

Playing in front of the smallest home crowd in Colorado Avalanche history, the backup goalie stopped 28 shots in a 4-1 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday.

Milan Hejduk added two goals and Paul Stastny had three assists to help the Avalanche remain on top in the Western Conference standings and tie Pittsburgh for the overall NHL lead.

Despite their winning ways, the Avalanche only attracted 11,012 spectators Wednesday - all the empty seats quite noticeable.

A disappointment for a team that's been playing so well?

"Our job is to go out and play hockey, our job is to provide entertainment for our fans and to make sure the games are exciting," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "I think we've done a good job of that this year."

Budaj was brilliant in goal, allowing only Ed Jovanovski's power-play goal midway through the third period.

That despite not playing in a game since the exhibition season.

The 27-year-old Budaj was scheduled to make his first start Oct. 23 against Carolina, but was scratched due to flu-like symptoms. It turned out to be swine flu, causing Budaj to miss four games.

He was growing quite anxious to get out there.

Even with the layoff, there wasn't a hint of rust.

"I felt great and the communication was great," Budaj said. "After a couple of saves you relax, you know you've been there ... Get back to basics and not do anything crazy."

With Budaj fully healthy, Craig Anderson finally got a night off. Anderson made a franchise-record 15 straight starts to begin the season, breaking the mark that belonged to Mario Gosselin, who made nine straight starts to open the 1987-88 season.

Marek Svatos had a goal and David Jones added an empty-netter as Colorado improved to 5-0 at the Pepsi Center, one win away from tying its best home start since moving to the Mile High City.

"At times, we were a little slow but Budaj played unbelievable and kept us in," Stastny said. "He's the main reason we were up one goal going into the third."

The Coyotes certainly had their chances, but couldn't sneak anything past Budaj.

"It was a pretty lackluster effort on our part for the better part of two periods," Jovanovski said.

Midway through the third period, the Coyotes picked it up, pulling within a goal. But they couldn't get the equalizer, despite a couple of quality shots by Matthew Lombardi.

"We've got to bury those chances," Lombardi said. "Couldn't make it happen."

Down a goal with just over a minute remaining, the Coyotes pulled goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, leading to Jones' breakaway.

Just 19 seconds later, Hejduk scored his second of the night.

Bryzgalov made 25 saves as the Coyotes dropped their second straight game. Bryzgalov has one of the top goals-against averages in the NHL, allowing less than two goals a game.

The Avalanche scored a power-play goal just 57 seconds into the game when Hejduk tipped in Kyle Quincey's slap shot from the blue line.

That set a solid tone, especially with Budaj playing at the top of his game.

As for any talk of a goalie controversy, Sacco quickly quelled it.

"I go on a game-by-game basis and right now Craig's done a good job for us," Sacco said.

Notes

  • Avalanche F Darcy Tucker has started skating again and is listed as day-to-day. He has been out since he sustained a concussion on a check from Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu on Oct. 23. "His head feels fine after a couple of days of workouts," Sacco said. "I'm happy that his progress is probably farther ahead than I had anticipated.
  • It will be nice to get him back."
  • Jovanovski's power-play goal ended a string in which the Avalanche killed 25 straight penalties.
  • The Coyotes are 5-3 on the road this season. Last year they didn't win their fifth road game until Dec. 10.
  • Avs F Cody McLeod returned to the ice Wednesday after missing six games following an inadvertent stick to his left eye.
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After missing four games with the swine flu, Peter Budaj makes 28 saves in his first start. (Getty Images)
After missing four games with the swine flu, Peter Budaj makes 28 saves in his first start. (Getty Images)

Scoreboard
Phoenix (9-6-0)0011
Colorado  (11-3-2) «1034
Three Stars
M. Hejduk
COL


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 1
M. Svatos
COL


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
P. Budaj
COL


Saves: 28
Save Pct.: .966
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
57.0Power Play - Milan Hejduk (6), Tip-In. Assist: Quincey, Stastny
2ND PERIOD
None
3RD PERIOD
06:43Marek Svatos (3), Wrist Shot. Assist: Stastny, Hejduk
09:52Power Play - Ed Jovanovski (5), Slap Shot. Assist: Lang, Lombardi
19:17David Jones (4), Empty Net, Unassisted.
19:36Milan Hejduk (7), Wrist Shot. Assist: Stastny, Dupuis
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
32.0Winnik, 2 min, Delay of Game
03:57Pyatt, 2 min, High-Sticking
13:27O'Reilly, 2 min, Interference
17:44Yandle, 2 min, Delay of Game
2ND PERIOD
11:16Koci, 2 min, Roughing
16:42Pyatt, 2 min, Boarding
3RD PERIOD
07:02Hanzal, 2 min, Elbowing
09:33Stewart, 2 min, High-Sticking
12:20Svatos, 2 min, Tripping
13:14Jovanovski, 2 min, Cross-Checking
Shots On Goal
 123T
Phoenix913729
Colorado1081129
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Ilya Bryzgalov59:25253
Peter Budaj60:00281
Game Information
Attendance - 11012
Referees - Brad Meier, Brian Pochmara
Linesmen - Mark Shewchyk, Dan Schachte
 
Other Games
NYI 0 Final
Buf 3
SJ 3 Final
Colu 2
Car 0 Final
Fla 3
Wash 2 Final
NJ 3
Cal 3 Final
OT
Dal 2