DENVER – Marek Svatos has been rooted in a slump, few bounces going his way.
His struggles have mirrored the play of the Colorado Avalanche, a team desperate to break out of a funk. This was the type of night they all needed. Svatos scored twice as the Avalanche ended a four-game slide with a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
“It’s very nice,” Svatos said, grinning. “I’ve been struggling not scoring goals lately. I’ve had lots of opportunities. I got a couple of bounces and hopefully that will be the case for the next 30 games.”
The Avalanche were in dire need of a win. They had dropped five of six at home, sinking in the standings.
But nothing cures confidence like beating the top team in the Northwest Division – twice. The Avalanche’s last two wins have come against a red-hot Calgary team. They’re now 2-5 during a season-high eight-game homestand.
“We can beat good teams and then lose to teams we feel like we should beat,” said Milan Hejduk, who had a goal in the second period. “We’re very unpredictable.”
Rene Bourque, Adrian Aucoin and Jarome Iginla scored for the Flames, whose three-game winning streak ended.
“We knew they’d be ready,” Iginla said. “Knew they’d be hungry at home. They were. They were ready to play.”
Very few breaks have gone Svatos’ way in recent weeks. The forward had just three goals in his last 16 games coming into the contest.
However, Svatos was in the proper place at the precise time Monday, scoring on a pass from Tyler Arnason in the first period, then the game-winner late in the second.
“He went to the net hard,” Colorado coach Tony Granato explained. “The bounces and some of the chances that normally he would bury haven’t been there or guys have made big saves against him. He did a great job.”
The Avalanche improved to 17-0-0 when taking a lead into the third period as Peter Budaj preserved the win with numerous stops, including turning back two straight slap shots by Dion Phaneuf late in the game.
“The guys played great,” said Budaj, who finished with 36 saves. “It’s a sign of a good team, coming to the third period, up by one goal and you’re able to hold onto the lead and get the two points.”
Calgary pulled Miikka Kiprusoff with 1:03 remaining, but drew a penalty for having too many men on the ice when Kiprusoff hesitated.
The Avalanche couldn’t score an empty-net goal and remain the only team in the league without one. The last team to go without an empty-net goal was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005-06.
Kiprusoff finished with 38 saves, but lost for the first time in five games against Colorado this season.
“They had a lot of energy. They came out with the energy we saw a week ago. They were very aggressive when they went to the net,” Calgary coach Mike Keenan said.
Hejduk’s power-play goal in the second period gave him 636 points in his career, tying the right winger with Anton Stastny for fifth place on the franchise’s career list.
Not that he was in a celebratory mood. One win doesn’t get the Avalanche back into the thick of the playoff picture.
“We need to turn this thing around and start winning hockey games to make the playoffs,” he said. “It’s very frustrating.”
Iginla continues to torment the Avalanche. With his wrist-shot goal, he has 62 points in 71 career games against Colorado. It’s the most of any NHL player against the Avalanche since they moved from Quebec.
“We didn’t take them lightly. We knew it was a tough game,” said Iginla, who reached the 20-goal mark for the 10th straight season. “Unfortunately, tonight we didn’t make the game-breaking plays and the timely plays as they did.”
Notes: Avalanche D Ruslan Salei has three goals this season, two against the Flames. … Referee Kerrie Fraser officiated in his 1,800th NHL game. … Flames LW Andre Roy played in his 500th career game. … The Avalanche are 5-0-1 all-time on Groundhog Day. … The Avalanche snapped a string of allowing a power play goal in 10 straight games. … The Flames play in Dallas on Tuesday night. … Ryan Smyth and Arnason each added two assists.