DENVER – The Colorado Avalanche got the bounce they needed to avoid a fourth straight home loss.
Wojtek Wolski scored the only goal in a shootout, Craig Anderson stopped all three Tampa Bay shots and the Avalanche beat the Lightning 2-1 on Friday night. Wolski had the Avalanche’s only regulation goal and Anderson made 21 saves to help Colorado snap a three-game home losing streak.
“Lately we’ve been snake-bitten,” Wolski said. “Tonight we really put the effort forth.”
Antero Niittymaki made 33 saves, and Steve Downie scored for Tampa Bay. The Lightning have lost seven of their last eight.
The Avalanche outshot the Lightning 26-12 after the first period but were on the verge of their second straight 1-0 loss when Wolski came through. Paul Stastny skated down the left boards and his centring pass to the front of the net banked off a driving Wolski’s leg with 7:49 remaining. It was Wolski’s 12th goal of the season.
“Sometimes you just have to go to the net and get a lucky bounce,” Wolski said. “I’ve had so many chances in the last little while and they’re not going in. Sometimes you just have to get the ugly ones.”
The way Niittymaki was playing, Colorado needed a lucky bounce. The Tampa Bay goalie was close to his first shutout of the season when Wolski tied it.
“You knew they were going to come, we just didn’t have an answer for them,” Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. “Actually, we had one answer – Niittymaki. That was our only answer.”
Niittymaki had 18 saves in the third period alone.
“We just sat back in the third period and let them con in our zone,” forward Alex Tanguay said. “We were making stupid mistakes and not playing good.”
Wolski’s goal would have been cosmetic if Tampa Bay scored on its best chance of second period. The Lightning had an odd-man rush late in the period, but Anderson made a save on Vincent Lecavalier to keep Colorado within a goal.
“I thought when (Lowrie) passed it to me there was an opening on the low blocker but that wasn’t the shot that came out,” Lecavalier said. “I was going low blocker and it ended it up on his blocker.”
Anderson, playing for the first time since suffering a neck injury against Florida on Dec. 2, faced only five shots in the third period and overtime.
“Sometimes the toughest job is when you don’t see a lot of shots,” he said.
The Lightning scored first when the Avalanche couldn’t control two rebounds. Anderson saved shots by Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier, but the second rebound came out to Downie, who fired a wrist shot into the open net with 7:48 left in the first period for his sixth goal of the season.
The Avalanche had a chance to tie with a power play late in the period but couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage.
Both teams had several good chances to score in the second period. Colorado nearly tied it midway through the second period on a shot by Stastny, but Niittymaki got his shoulder on the puck.
The Avalanche continued to put pressure on the Lightning but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Tampa Bay took consecutive minors early in the third period, giving Colorado two power-play opportunities. Although they had six shots on goal with the man advantage the Avalanche couldn’t cash in.
NOTES: Niittymaki was briefly attended to late in the first period after stopping a shot by Ryan O’Reilly. Niittymaki stayed in the game. … Colorado went more than 154 minutes between goals at home, a span of three games. … The Avalanche have not allowed a power-play goal in their last four games, killing of 10 penalties. … Colorado is 3-5 in shootouts and Tampa Bay is 1-6.