DENVER – Peter Budaj is making a case for more playing time—even when Craig Anderson returns from the injured list.
Budaj had 33 saves, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart had a goal and an assist each and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-1 on Saturday night.
David Liffiton, Cody McLeod and David Jones also scored, and Milan Hejduk and David Winnik had two assists each for the Avalanche.
Budaj is 2-0-1 since taking over for Anderson, who injured his right knee in warmups Tuesday night. After starting just 11 games last year, Budaj is trying to earn more starts, and a performance like the one against Columbus doesn’t hurt his chances.
“Peter made huge saves when we needed them when it was still a tight game,” said Colorado assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre, who addressed the media in place of head coach Joe Sacco, who had the flu. “It was a great performance on his end. He was awesome.”
After giving up five goals in a 6-5 win over Calgary on Thursday, Budaj frustrated the Blue Jackets and nearly got his first shutout since last season.
“We won the game in Calgary, but I wasn’t sharp,” he said. “The guys put in five for me and we won again tonight.”
Only a power-play goal by Rick Nash spoiled his night.
“He played well,” Nash said. “We couldn’t bury our chances.”
The Blue Jackets had many opportunities, but Budaj came up big. He made several key saves in the second period, including a diving stop of Derek Dorsett’s shot early in the frame and a glove save on a breakaway chance by Nash.
“I was trying to go top corner,” Nash said. “It’s tough to tell what would happen if I would have gotten it up, but he made a nice save.”
Budaj preserved the shutout again with a blocker save on Derick Brassard early in the third, but Nash spoiled it with his fourth goal of the year with 11:23 remaining. It wasn’t enough to stop Columbus from losing for the first time in four road games this season.
The Blue Jackets were trailing only 1-0 when Colorado blew it open in the second period.
With the Avalanche on a 5-on-3 power play, Stewart hit a post with a shot but the puck ricocheted to Stastny. Stastny gave it right back to Stewart in front of the net and he buried it for his ninth goal of the season 50 seconds into the frame.
“The puck gets knocked out of the air, it was sitting there and all I had to do was put it home,” Stewart said.
Liffiton and Stastny scored 44 seconds apart midway through the period to make it 4-0 and chase starter Steve Mason.
Mason allowed four goals on 19 shots before being replaced by Mathieu Garon, who had 11 saves.
“It’s a one-goal game, they have a 5-on-3 to start the second and score there,” Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. “Instead of sticking to what we do and making it a 2-1 game we got back on our heels and they get the third and fourth goals. The game’s over.”
Cody McLeod made it 5-0 with his second goal of the season 6:06 into the third.
By then, the Blue Jackets had let their frustration take over. They were whistled for 10 penalties, five of them in the third period.
“Good teams, when they get down they stick with it,” Nash said. “We did the opposite.”
The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead early in the game. Scott Hannan kept the puck in the Columbus zone and sent a pass low to Hejduk. Hejduk fed Jones, who beat Mason 4:14 in for his fourth goal of the season.
Notes: Anderson will not need surgery on his right knee but the team has not revealed the severity of his injury nor how long he will be sidelined. … Liffiton’s goal was his first in the NHL. … The Blue Jackets’ power play is 3 for 33 in their last eight games, including 1 for 3 Saturday. … Stewart extended his points streak to eight games on his 23rd birthday. … After the game the Avalanche sent C Kevin Porter to Lake Erie of the American Hockey League.