DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche chased one of the top goaltenders from the game early and still had to hang on at the end.
Nothing comes easy for them these days.
Matt Duchene scored twice in Colorado’s four-goal first period and Peter Budaj turned back a late flurry of shots, helping the Avalanche halt the Detroit Red Wings’ three-game winning streak with a 5-4 victory on Monday night.
“We got some opportunities and we jumped on them,” Duchene said. “When you are able to do that, things go very well.”
Things also got a little dicey before the Avalanche snapped their two-game skid.
Colorado got off to a roaring start, sending goalie Jimmy Howard to the bench 14:15 in after he surrendered four goals on 10 shots.
Comfortably up 5-2 late in the second period, the Avs watched as the Red Wings stormed back, making it a 5-4 game midway through the third period when Tomas Holmstrom deflected in a shot.
But that would be as close as the Red Wings would get as Budaj thwarted one scoring chance after another, especially late when Detroit relentlessly pressured the Avalanche.
“They’re a team that has great skill and they’re a team that is really hard to shut down,” said Duchene, who turns 20 on Sunday. “But we were able to do it.”
Paul Stastny, Kevin Porter and David Jones added goals for the Avalanche in a game that featured two of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams.
Jan Mursak scored his first NHL goal. Brian Rafalski and Henrik Zetterberg also had goals for the Red Wings, 3-1 on a five-game road swing that ends Friday at Columbus.
“We let Howie down big time,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of his goalie. “We had every opportunity to win this game. We were unable to get it done.”
That was due in part to Duchene, who was all over the ice. He also set up Jones’ backhanded goal in the second period, which gave the Avs a 5-2 lead and turned out to be the game-winner.
“Duchene is obviously comfortable against us,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think it was an issue in the past. Obviously, it is.”
Duchene’s first goal came when he corralled a loose puck between the blue lines, skated in on Howard and put a shot between his pads.
He knocked in another on a give-and-go play with Tomas Fleischmann, who assisted on both of Duchene’s goals.
That would be the end of Howard’s night as he gave way to Joey MacDonald, who allowed only one goal the rest of the way on 16 shots.
“I don’t want to get pulled,” said Howard, who leads the league with 22 wins. “But I’m just going to put it behind me and move on. It’s the only thing you can do.”
Duchene nearly added a third, but his backhanded shot with 32.4 seconds remaining in the first period clanged off the right post.
That was about the only blemish on his stellar night.
“Matty’s line had some good jump. They skated very well,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “He had some good speed and he was difficult to contain at times.”
Stastny started the scoring when he knocked in a shot after the puck squirted out to him near the left circle. The goal moved Stastny to within one of becoming the eighth Avalanche player to score 100.
Porter also got into the act when he bounced in a puck off the stick of Detroit defenceman Jonathan Ericsson.
The dinged-up Red Wings have done a remarkable job of weathering a string of injuries. They are second in the Western Conference despite missing Mike Modano (wrist), Pavel Datsyuk (wrist/hand) and Dan Cleary (ankle) for chunks of time.
Detroit will be without defenceman Brad Stuart (broken jaw) for six-to-eight weeks, and backup goalie Chris Osgood is out because of a lingering groin injury.
NOTES: Avs rookie D Kevin Shattenkirk missed the game because of a foot injury sustained Saturday while blocking a shot. … Detroit F Valtteri Filppula returned after missing two games with a groin injury, logging nearly 13 minutes of ice time. … Duchene and Jones tied career highs with three points each. … Zetterberg’s goal ran his point streak to 11 games. He has six goalsand 10 assists over that span.