DENVER – It took a few years for Craig Anderson to become a No. 1 goalie. He is making the most of his chance.
Anderson made a season-high 48 saves, Chris Stewart and T.J. Galiardi each had a goal and an assist, and the Colorado Avalanche continued their surprising start with a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.
Kris Draper scored his second goal of the season and Jimmy Howard had 20 saves for the Red Wings, who are winless in their last three games.
Anderson played sporadically with Chicago and Florida after breaking into the NHL seven years ago, never playing more than 31 games in a season. Despite his thin credentials, the Avalanche signed him in the off-season, and he has rewarded them with great play.
Saturday, Colorado needed every one of his saves to beat Detroit for the second time in eight days.
“Outstanding,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “He was very solid all game and gave us a chance to win.”
Anderson was at his best in the third period, when Colorado took four penalties and Detroit put 21 shots on goal.
“I was just trying to find the puck and get through screens,” Anderson said. “The things that I didn’t see just hit me.”
Todd Bertuzzi had two good chances to score, including one late in the second period when he tried to stuff the puck between Anderson’s legs. The goalie closed the pads to deny the forward.
“It’s tough man,” Bertuzzi said. “Those are ones I have to put in. If that goes in, it’s 2-1 us and changes the game.”
With the score tied 1-all, Stewart took a pass from Galiardi, skated into the Detroit zone and beat Howard with a shot from the top of the right circle with 10:20 left in the game.
“Galiardi got it off the wall and made a heads-up pass,” Stewart said. “I was one-on-one with (Brett) Lebda and beat him wide.”
The Red Wings had a chance to tie when they had three power plays late in the third period, including three seconds of 5-on-3, but couldn’t beat Anderson despite putting eight shots on goal.
Detroit pulled Howard with 1:10 left and Paul Stastny, serving his third penalty of the game, came out of the box, picked up a loose puck and sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 59 seconds left.
Draper gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead early in the second period. Dan Cleary corralled the puck on the left board and sent a pass between the legs of defenceman Kyle Quincey to Draper, who was screening Anderson. Draper spun and backhanded the puck past the Colorado goalie with 16:51 left in the frame.
The Avalanche tied it with 5:34 left in the second. Stewart took the puck off Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson’s stick and fed Galiardi, who roofed a backhander over Howard for his first goal of the season.
The Red Wings had the first good opportunity to take the lead when Stastny drew a double minor for high sticking with 6:27 left in the first period. Detroit had seven shots with the man advantage, but Anderson made several good saves, including one on Tomas Holmstrom with 20 seconds left on the power play.
“We played well but their goalie stood on his head,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. “We had a ton of chances, but right now their goaltender is in a zone.”
Colorado, which was picked by many to finish out of the playoffs for the second straight season, is 8-1-2 following its second victory in two nights and leads the Western Conference with 18 points.
“Everyone was saying we wouldn’t do much this year, but everyone in here knew what we had,” Galiardi said. “It’s pretty special right now and we want to keep it going.”
Notes: Avalanche F Darcy Tucker is out indefinitely with a concussion suffered in Friday’s win over Carolina. Tucker was injured when Hurricanes’ F Tuomo Ruutu checked him into the boards in the second period. The Avalanche recalled F Brian Willsie from Lake Erie. … Avalanche G Peter Budaj (flu) was not available Saturday. … The 49 shots by Detroit were a season high. … Saturday’s game was the 100th between the two franchises.