RALEIGH, N.C. – The Colorado Avalanche had more problems than simply winning so far on this road trip. Scoring also was becoming in issue.
At least for everyone except Marek Svatos.
“He’s been on fire lately,” teammate Cody McLeod said. “He’s been the only one that can score, it seems.”
On Saturday night, Svatos got some timely help.
He capped a third-period rally with two goals in about two minutes, and the Avalanche rallied three times from two-goal deficits to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 in their first visit to Tobacco Road in exactly five years.
The late goals gave Svatos nine goals in his past 10 games and helped the Avalanche stop a two-game losing streak.
McLeod, Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk also scored, McLeod got his first career NHL assist and Colorado improved to 12-0-3 against Carolina.
Erik Cole, Keith Aucoin, Chad LaRose and Cory Stillman scored for the short-handed Hurricanes in their second loss in a row at home. They have only two victories in their past eight games, thanks mostly to injury list that goes six-deep. Those out include Matt Cullen, Justin Williams and Bret Hedican.
Still, Carolina controlled the first two periods and led 4-2 entering the final 20 minutes. That’s when the game fell apart for the home team.
McLeod, called up from the AHL in December, got it started with good effort behind the net. Instead of centring the puck, he stuffed it over the left leg of goalie Cam Ward to make it 4-3, and Svatos took over from there.
“He has been scoring a lot of goals,” Colorado coach Joel Queneville said. “And he doesn’t need much of an opportunity.”
First, Svatos reached around Carolina defenceman Niclas Wallin to poke in a rebound to tie the game, then grabbed another blocked shot to give the Avalanche the lead. Ward made a nice save but lost control of the puck, and Svatos was the first one there to put it through for the game winner.
“I got a couple of chances there in the third period and was able to put them in the net,” Svatos said. “It was an open game, a crazy game. They made the most of their chances, but we came out skating hard in the third.”
It was the kind of victory that can turn around a season; a loss such as this might have the opposite effect on the Hurricanes.
“Any loss is deflating,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. “We let it get away. We had it 4-2 with nine minutes to go and we let it get away. That’s going to be a tough one to swallow.”
The Hurricanes used Aucoin’s second goal in two games to take a 2-0 lead in a first period highlighted by two fights. In the first, Carolina rookie Tim Conboy got tested on his first NHL shift by Colorado enforcer Scott Parker. Conboy led his minor league team in penalty minutes and held his own in his first tussle.
A couple of minutes later, Hurricanes defenceman Mike Commodore went at it with Cody McCormick, but this showdown was over in a matter of seconds.
The loss also spoiled Ward’s first assist of the season, when he moved way out of the crease at the end of a power play to get the puck to Casey Borer. He passed to Stillman, who beat Theodore with a slap shot from just outside the right circle.
That one made it 4-2 before the Avalanche’s comeback.
“It’s pretty obvious what’s going on,” Carolina captain Rod Brind’Amour said. “We’re depleted, for sure, and we don’t have a margin for error. It’s going to be a dogfight all year and we know that.”
Notes: During the first period, a promo during a timeout had the Hurricanes players coming up with their favourite NASCAR driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. easily outdistanced Jeff Gordon in votes.