DENVER – Peter Budaj picked a good night to break out of his slump.
Budaj posted his first shutout in more than a year, Darcy Tucker scored his 200th NHL goal, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Nashville Predators 1-0 on Saturday night to end a five-game losing streak. Budaj, who had given up four goals a game over his last five, made 26 saves. It was his first shutout since beating Boston 2-0 on March 6, 2007, and the sixth of his NHL career.
“Boots played a great game,” Avalanche defenceman Ruslan Salei said. “He made huge saves.”
Budaj took over as Colorado’s No. 1 goalie this season, but he struggled at the start in losing his first three games. He won his next three starts but allowed 17 goals in losing the following four.
On Saturday, Budaj managed to make one goal stand up.
“I made a couple of big saves early and it helped me calm down,” Budaj said. “When you’re losing, you try to think too much, you try to create too much. We simplified it tonight.”
Midway through the third period, Budaj made two big saves on Shea Weber during one of the Predators’ seven power plays. Weber, whose seven goals are tied for the team lead, took a big shot from the left circle that Budaj saved. The rebound kicked out to the slot, and Weber blasted another shot that Budaj stopped.
“That was against a great goal scorer,” Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. “That was probably as good a position as you could have, in the slot. He didn’t give him much, he challenged him and he made a great save.”
Weber looked to the rafters after the sequence.
“I have to make a better shot there,” Weber said. “The puck is rolling, but it was a key opportunity, and you have to capitalize on those.”
The Avalanche got the only goal of the game with 4:21 left in the second period. T.J. Hensick picked up the puck at the blue-line and skated into the Nashville zone down the right side. He sent a pass to the front of the net that went off the stick of Nashville centre Scott Nichols right to Tucker, who backhanded the puck past goalie Dan Ellis for his third goal of the season.
“It’s a nice reward for a lot of years of hard work,” Tucker said of his 200th goal.
Just 24 seconds earlier, Vernon Fiddler came into the Avalanche zone ahead of the defence, but Budaj made a right pad save to keep Nashville off the scoreboard.
“We played better in front of him,” Granato said. “Tonight was one of his most solid efforts I’ve seen.”
Ellis made 19 saves for the Predators, who have lost three straight and are 1-6-1 on the road.
The Avalanche had two good chances to get on the board earlier in the game. Late in the first period, Ian Laperriere took a feed from Ben Guite in front and faked Ellis to the ice, but then sent a shot through the crease and just wide of the left post.
With 14:01 left in the second period and Colorado on its fourth power play, Marek Svatos hit the left post with a rebound shot. Ellis covered that loose puck before Wojtek Wolski could knock it in.
“It took everybody tonight,” Tucker said. “We had four lines, six defencemen and a great performance from our goaltender.”
It was a much-needed win for Colorado, which will play nine of its next 12 games on the road.
“It’s a big two points for our team, and I’m glad we got the win before our big road trip,” Budaj said.
Notes: Avalanche C Joe Sakic left after the first period with a back injury. Sakic missed Thursday’s game due to the injury that was sustained in practice the previous day. … Colorado F Cody McCormick was excused from the team for personal reasons. … The teams combined to go 0-for-16 on the power play. … Nashville is 1-6 when trailing after two periods.