BUFFALO, N.Y. – Matt Hendricks turned a disappointing third period into a gutty win for the Colorado Avalanche.
Hendricks scored the deciding goal in the 11th round of the shootout, rookie Matt Duchene scored twice in regulation, and the Colorado Avalanche snapped Buffalo’s six-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory over the Sabres on Saturday night.
The struggling Avalanche blew a two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes before Hendricks beat Sabres backup goalie Patrick Lalime with a nifty move to give Colorado (25-15-6) just its second victory in the last five games.
After three shooters on each team had scored, Hendricks faked a wrist shot in the slot before going to his backhand to slide the puck in. The move worked out better than it had earlier in the year when Hendricks ultimately fell into Chicago goalie Cristobal Huet after the fake.
“I had a little too much speed the last time,” said Hendricks, who also had an assist on Duchene’s first goal. “Tonight it worked, and we got the win. That’s the most important thing.”
Duchene also scored in the shootout, fellow rookie Brandon Yip, playing in just his 10th NHL game, tallied for the fifth time and added an assist, and Craig Anderson made 32 saves for the Avalanche, who snapped a two-game losing streak.
Colorado has yet to lose three straight this season.
“It says a lot about the character of our team,” the 18-year-old Duchene said. “We never got down, and it was a good effort by us.”
Anderson was able to stop Buffalo defenceman Henrik Tallinder right before Hendricks’ tally.
“They’ve got a great offensive team, a lot of firepower, and got momentum,” Anderson said. “We did a good job of just sticking it out, and didn’t panic.”
Buffalo (28-11-5), looking to earn its longest win streak since opening the 2006-07 season with an NHL-record 10 consecutive victories, got goals from Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht.
Stafford added an assist, and Lalime made 27 saves in the loss.
Down 3-1 after 40 minutes, the Sabres beat Anderson twice on 15 third-period shots, with Hecht sending the game into overtime when his wrist shot got through from the right point with 4:12 left in regulation.
“We battled hard, and came out flying in the third,” said Lalime, who was in search of his 200th career NHL goal. “That’s the way we should play all the time. We had a lot of great chances, but we just didn’t close the deal.”
Colorado played without captain Adam Foote, who returned to Denver after injuring his ankle during the second period in Friday’s loss to Carolina. Head coach Joe Sacco said that Foote’s injury was not as bad as originally thought, and is hoping the defenceman is back skating in a few days.
Duchene opened the scoring 7:35 into the game with a splendid individual effort. After stealing the puck from Tallinder in the right circle, Duchene fed Hendricks in the slot, then received a return pass before flipping the puck over Lalime.
Duchene notched his second of the game, and 13th of the year, with 6:32 left in the first period, jamming home a loose puck in the crease.
Stafford made it 2-1 with a power-play goal with 2:55 remaining in the second period, but Yip gave Colorado its two-goal lead back 62 seconds later when his wrist shot from the right circle eluded Lalime.
Vanek scored midway through the third period to cut the deficit to 3-2.
“It’s always a good point when you battle back,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “If you have energy in the third, you should have energy in the first. I wasn’t happy with the first period, but we responded well for some of the things we did poorly early in the game.”
NOTES: The 11 shootout rounds tied for the most in the NHL this season, and the seven combined goals scored in the shootout tied a league record, done on 10 other occasions. … Avalanche defenceman John-Michael Liles returned after missing one game because of flu-like symptoms. … The Sabres open a season-long seven-game road trip on Thursday in Atlanta. … Buffalo is 7-0-3 at home since Dec. 9. … No Avalanche player has recorded a hat trick since Milan Hejduk scored three times against St. Louis in December 2007. … Tim Connolly extended his career-high points streak to nine games with an assist on Hecht’s goal.