NEWARK, N.J. – Chris Stewart and company took over after Craig Anderson kept the Colorado Avalanche in the game in the first period.
Anderson made 17 of his 41 saves in a one-sided opening period and Stewart had a goal and an assist to lead the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory over the slumping New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
“It’s just one of those nights that you just try to be big at times and when you’re reading and reacting to the play you’re in position and the game looks easy,” Anderson said. “I think sometimes guys make spectacular saves because they get out of position. We’re all pretty agile to make desperation saves, but sometimes when a goalie looks like he’s not working very hard it’s because he’s working very smart.”
Anderson, who led NHL goaltenders in shots faced and saves last season, was actually in perfect position most of the night. He was particularly good in the late stages after the Devils cut the lead to a goal on Ilya Kovalchuk’s second goal of the season with 11:11 to go.
The goaltender stopped a deflection by Patrik Elias with 5:45 to go and a point shot by Henrik Tallinder with 3:40 left. Anderson also stopped blasts by Kovalchuk and Elias in the final minute when Devils goalie Martin Brodeur was pulled for an extra skater.
“He seems like the kind of guy, the more shots he gets on him, the better he plays,” said T.J. Galiardi, who along with Cody McLeod got the Avs’ other goals. “He’s been that way for a while and it just brings another element to your team when you can count on a goalie like that.”
Anderson was outstanding after McLeod was kicked out of the game for boarding, a call that came 22 seconds he scored at the end of a four-minute Colorado power play.
During that five-minute New Jersey power play, Anderson stopped at least a half-dozen great chances and also got a little lucky.
A tip by Zach Parise slid just wide of the net and Dainius Zubrus failed to slam a puck into an open net after skating around Anderson in front.
“I think, we take a lot of shots and maybe we need to create a little more traffic in front of the net,” Kovalchuk added. “That’s how we scored the first goal. Zach was in front and he didn’t see anything. Still, we got a lot of shots, just two goals. We’ve got to be much better.”
Rookie Matt Taormina scored his first NHL goal and assisted on Kovalchuk’s third-period tally for the offensively challenged Devils, who have nine goals and three points in five games (1-3-1). New Jersey had a 43-22 shot advantage.
“Shots don’t count, we have a lot of opportunities, but their goalie, he’s playing well,” Kovalchuk said. “We have to take the best of this game and carry it into (the next) game.”
Galiardi gave Colorado some breathing room in the second period, shovelling the rebound of Stewart’s blast from the left circle into the top corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
Taormina closed the gap to 2-1 3 minutes later with a power-play shot from straight on with Parise providing a screen in front.
Stewart, who led Colorado with 28 goals in their surprising run to the playoffs last year, got his second of the year early in the third period with a slap shot from the right faceoff circle that whizzed over the shoulder of Brodeur, who made 19 saves.
Kovalchuk, who signed a high-publicized 15-year, US$100 million contract in the off-season that has caused some salary cap and roster problems for New Jersey, closed the gap to a goal but New Jersey could not find a way to tie the game.
Despite being outshot 17-3 in the first period, the Avalanche took a 1-0 when McLeod, who has had at least 100 minutes in penalties in his first three seasons, beat Brodeur to the short side with a shot from the left faceoff circle at 11:50.
NOTES: In the first period of the last two games, the Devils have outshot Buffalo and Colorado by a combined 32-4 margin and been outscored 1-0. … Jacob Josefson, the 19-year-old Swedish centre who was the Devils’ first-round draft pick in 2009, made his NHL debut. … Colorado is 2-1 on its five-game trip with games left against the Islanders and Rangers. … This was the only between the Devils and Avs this season.