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Brunette, Sakic lead Avalanche offence in easy 5-2 win over Thrashers

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

ATLANTA - With Colorado playing its third game in four days, coach Joel Quenneville hoped the Avalanche would stay focused on the playoffs.

"I don't think there's any opportunity to feel complacent," he said. "One day you're in third (place), the next you're in eighth, and the ninth-place team is right there."

Andrew Brunette scored two goals and Colorado got a goal and two assists each from Joe Sakic and rookie David Jones in a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night.

The Avalanche moved into a tie for first place in the Northwest Division with Calgary, which had the night off. Both teams have 82 points. Minnesota is third with 81, one more than Vancouver, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"We've got to take care of our own business," Quenneville said. "Whoever does best within this division is going to have the best chance of winning it."

Colorado has won 10 of 14 on the road, seven of eight overall.

Jones, a ninth-round draft choice in 2003, scored his first career goal to make it 4-1 in the second. Now in his third stint this season after the Avalanche recalled him again from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League, Jones wants to savour his first goal.

"I can't wait to get that puck home and put it on my mantel," he said. "It will be up there at the top."

Jones assisted on Brunette's 16th goal and Sakic's 10th goal to help the Avalanche take a 2-0 lead in the first. Sakic, who ranks eighth in career NHL points, thought Jones played with poise.

"I think he played really well," Sakic said. "He's got size. He's got speed. He goes to the net hard and handles the puck well."

Colby Armstrong had an unassisted goal midway through the first for the Thrashers, who lost their second straight and have just one victory in 11 games.

"There's nothing to say," Atlanta captain Bobby Holik said. "There's nothing for us to say right now."

Milan Hejduk's 22nd goal came in the first minute of the second after Scott Hannan passed from the left circle and beat goaltender Johan Hedberg stick side.

Brunette's 17th goal, which pushed the lead to 5-1 late in the second, improved Colorado to 24-5-2 this season when scoring on the power play.

Hedberg, who dropped to 13-20-5, stopped 18 of 23 shots before coach Don Waddell pulled him in favour of Kari Lehtonen to begin the third.

Waddell indicated the Thrashers have more problems right now than just poor goaltending and inadequate defence.

"It shouldn't be a problem getting up for games, but for some reason this is the first one we've had like that," Waddell said. "So let's hope we can blow by it pretty quickly as we start a stretch drive of seven games in 11 nights. It's going to be a long 11 nights if we give those kind of 60 minutes."

Jose Theodore is 23-18-2 after stopping 22 of 24 shots and winning his seventh start in eight games.

Erik Christensen's 11th goal ended the scoring with 3:52 remaining.

Notes: C Peter Forsberg (groin) missed his second straight game for Colorado. ... After fighting Stars D Steve Ott in a 3-0 loss at Dallas on Sunday, D Ruslan Salei returned to Denver to have his injured eye examined. ... C Paul Stastny earned his team-high 37th assist and third in four games on Brunette's second goal. ... The Avalanche have killed 22 straight penalties. ... Colorado improved to 5-1 this month, 16-2-2 in March over the past two seasons. ... Alexei Zhitnik, Atlanta's highest-paid defenceman, was a healthy scratch for the third straight game. ... Colorado, 8-1 against the Eastern Conference, ended a three-game losing streak to the Thrashers to earn their first win in Atlanta since 2002.


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