Budaj stops 34 shots, Avalanche edge league-leading Predators 4-3

“I felt good,” the Colorado Avalanche goalie said after a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night. Predators coach Barry Trotz would use something a little stronger than good. “He made some outstanding saves,” Trotz said. “We got three, but we could’ve had seven. Budaj was really good.”

Budaj made 34 saves, but was at his best when the Avalanche were facing their worst predicament of the game. Colorado was up two goals in the third period when the Predators went on a four-minute power play after Ken Klee drew a high-sticking double minor.

The Avalanche weathered the storm to snap Nashville’s four-game winning streak.

“Peter made three stops that were out of nowhere,” Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was the reason we got through it.”

The Predators figured the extended power play would be their golden opportunity.

“We really thought we’d get a couple there,” winger Scott Hartnell said. “We had some chances, but the goalie played really good.

“They’re a desperate hockey club and fighting for points, fighting for a playoff spot. They looked like it.”

The Avalanche just wanted to erase the memory of a 3-1 loss to Detroit on Sunday in which they had just 12 shots, their lowest total since Feb. 7, 1999. Colorado had 15 shots in the first period against Nashville and finished with 35 overall.

“We had a bad effort in Detroit,” said Budaj, who had the day off against the Red Wings as Jose Theodore took his place and broke Budaj’s string of 12 straight starts. “I think we came out and wanted to play a great game.

“It’s definitely a good feeling to beat the best team in the league.”

The Predators, who still own the NHL’s top record (36-13-3), didn’t play the way they had in winning 10 of 12.

“It just wasn’t our style of game,” Hartnell said. “It wasn’t Predator hockey that we pride ourselves on.”

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Andrew Brunette and Wojtek Wolski each had a goal and an assist, and Joe Sakic added two assists. Sakic has 29 points in 29 career games against Nashville.

After the game, though, Brunette was critical of his team’s play.

“We gave up way too many odd-man rushes,” he said. “They are a team that is going to get some of those, but we gave up more than we should have, and Peter had to make some big saves when we could have been a little more conscious.

“We have to make sure we keep this going and play better than we did.”

Milan Hejduk scored 46 seconds into the third period to give Colorado a two-goal lead. The insurance came in handy as Nashville’s Steve Sullivan scored with 39.2 seconds after the Predators pulled goalie Tomas Vokoun with just over a minute remaining.

Jason Arnott and Paul Kariya scored for Nashville, which lost for the first time in 16 games when Kariya scores.

Vokoun, who stopped 31 shots, is now 4-1 since returning from a hand injury.

“I think we played a little too loose,” he said. “Our coverage wasn’t as good as it usually is, and you saw guys getting open toward the net.

“Sometimes you are going to have a night like that. We didn’t play smart enough to win.”

Notes: The Predators recalled D Kevin Klein from AHL Milwaukee. RW Alexander Radulov was sent to Milwaukee . . . Nashville is 18-10 on the road, matching the team record for wins. The Predators have 13 road games remaining . . . Martin Erat had his 34th assist of the season on Kariya’s goal . . . Budaj is now 7-2-2 in 11 starts in January . . . Colorado penalty killing unit has allowed only one power-play goal in the last five games . . . Sullivan has a point in eight straight games.