DENVER – Cody McLeod prefers to be known for his grit rather than his scoring.
Still, the Colorado Avalanche’s agitator showed his offensive touch, turning in his first two-goal game in a 6-1 rout of the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. “I’m far from (a goal scorer),” he said. “Got a couple of lucky bounces that went in. That’s my game, just crash and bang and get to the net.”
While he’s at it, get under the skin of the opposition as well. McLeod succeeded in that, drawing the ire of Raitis Ivanans after scoring his second goal of the game in the second period.
McLeod raised his hands to celebrate and Ivanans confronted him, the two exchanging shoves before both were sent off to the penalty box for roughing.
“I didn’t even see him coming,” McLeod said.
But John Zeiler definitely knew Ian Laperriere was coming – days before the game even. The Kings right winger figured retribution would take place for his check on Adam Foote in November.
Zeiler rammed Foote into the boards in that game, a check that drew a three-game suspension from the league. Foote, who has missed the last nine games with back and knee injuries, just recently returned to skating again.
“I knew it was going to have to get done,” Zeiler said. “It’s part of the game.”
Laperriere charged after Zeiler in the first period, landing a flurry of punches before they were separated. Both drew 5-minute penalties for fighting.
The fact that Zeiler took his punishment and didn’t back down earned Laperriere’s praise – at least as much as he could offer under the circumstances.
“Everybody knew it was going to happen,” Laperriere said. “He plays on the edge … I respect him a little bit more now by responding to the challenge.”
Chris Stewart scored his first NHL goal with the Avalanche down a skater. Laperriere slapped a puck out of the zone and Stewart tracked it down, jamming it past Jason LaBarbera. Stewart, who was called up on Friday after Joe Sakic went on injured reserve with a bad back, also had an assist.
“I’m so excited. I’m still so excited,” Stewart said. “Nothing compares to that, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
Marek Svatos, Milan Hejduk and Ryan Smyth also scored for Colorado, which tied a season high for goals.
Peter Budaj stopped 29 shots, beaten only by Oscar Moller’s power-play goal that sneaked under his right arm in the second period.
LaBarbera, who shut out Columbus on Saturday, had a forgettable first period, giving up three goals in the opening eight minutes, 16 seconds.
The game didn’t get much better for LaBarbera and the Kings as they trailed 6-0 midway through the second period.
“It was a pretty (expletive) effort by everyone,” LaBarbera said. “Just didn’t seem like we were ready from the get-go. They got every bounce you could have. Three or four of those goals were pretty good bounces. We just weren’t ready tonight.”
Svatos and Hejduk scored 25 seconds apart early in the opening period, igniting the rout.
But soon after Svatos would leave with a back injury. Colorado coach Tony Granato didn’t know the severity of the injury.
With his goal, Hejduk moves just three shy of becoming the fourth player in franchise history to reach 300 goals, joining Sakic (625), Michel Goulet (456) and Peter Stastny (380).
Midway through the opening period, McLeod bashed Derek Armstrong into the boards, circled back in front and stuffed the puck into the net.
That’s just McLeod being McLeod.
“It’s kind of my game,” he said. “Get loose pucks. Luckily, they went in.”
Notes: Armstrong left the game with an upper body injury following McLeod’s hit. … The Avalanche are now 3-0 against the Kings this season. … Smyth obliterated his stick on a first-period slap shot, sending the curved portion 10 rows up into the stands, where it landed in an aisle. … Avalanche C Paul Stastny set up Hejduk’s goal, giving him 19 assists this season. He now has eight points in the month.