DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche have been waiting for Wojtek Wolski to break out offensively.
He picked the right night to come up big.
With Joe Sakic sidelined again with a back injury, Wolski scored two goals, Marek Svatos had three assists and the Colorado Avalanche held on to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.
“I’ve been looking for it. Everybody has,” Wolski said of his goal scoring. “It’s something that’s been expected. Its should have happened a lot more than it has so far this season.”
Wolski had a goal in the season opener, then went 17 games before getting another one. He doubled his season total Saturday with a couple of first-period goals 1:36 apart as Colorado carried a 3-0 lead into the second period.
“He’s doing very good things defensively, but we need contribution offensively from him,” Colorado coach Tony Granato said. “When he gets a couple of goals it’s a big lift for everybody.”
Wolski took over after Jordan Leopold gave Colorado a 1-0 lead. He scored his first of the night when Tyler Arnason won a faceoff in the Tampa Bay end and the puck went to Svatos, who sent it to Wolski skating in front of the net. Wolski redirected it past Olaf Kolzig with 2:39 left in the period.
Wolski got his fourth of the season when he converted a backhander off an Arnason rebound to make it 3-0.
“He’s a big guy, he’s got great hands, he’s got great reach, he’s good in tight around the net, and that’s where he’s got to be to score goals,” Granato said. “He proved that tonight.”
Kolzig gave up three goals on 10 shots and was lifted in favour of Mike Smith to start the second period. Smith made 20 saves in the last 40 minutes for the Lightning.
Andrew Raycroft had 17 saves and Arnason added two assists for the Avalanche, who scored three times in a span of 3:37 late in the first period.
Ryan Malone and Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and an assist apiece for Tampa Bay, which has lost four straight.
Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet hinted there may be changes for the struggling Lightning, who are last in the Eastern Conference with 19 points.
“It’s going to get a little ugly around here for some guys,” he said. “We can’t wait any longer, we’re starting to slip. I think our patience is running thin on some people. This is a team that, tonight, we knew we had to be desperate. We knew they had a lot of injures. No disrespect to them, I think we had the stronger lineup. We had five or six guys lay eggs. That’s not good enough. This is a result-oriented business and they’re not getting the job done.”
Lecavalier, who scored his 10th goal of the season, agreed that the Lightning need to turn things around.
“We feel pressure not because of the talent, but we’ve only won five games, we only have 19 points,” he said. “That’s the pressure. We have to win and everybody is a little on edge.”
The Lightning mounted a rally after David Jones’ second goal of the season gave Colorado a 4-1 lead with 16:18 to go. Tampa Bay pulled within one on a pair of power-play tallies. Malone picked up his seventh goal with 10:41 left, and Steven Stamkos got his third of the season with 4:29 remaining.
Despite the rally, Tocchet wasn’t happy with the effort.
“You can’t wait for the last minute. It should have been in the first five minutes of the game,” he said.
Notes: Sakic has missed eight of the last 11 games with his back injury. The Avalanche said he will be evaluated in the next couple of days and will not be with the team on its upcoming three-game road trip. He re-injured his back Friday in Phoenix. … The Lightning reassigned D Matt Smaby to Norfolk of the AHL. … The Avalanche placed D Adam Foote on injured reserve with an upper back/knee injury and recalled D Aaron MacKenzie from Lake Erie of the AHL.