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Ducks avoid sweep by Avalanche with two late goals in 5-3 win

Niedermayer regained the lead for Anaheim with 3:23 left and set up a power-play goal by Chris Pronger 48 seconds later, leading the Ducks to a 5-3 victory over Colorado on Sunday night.

"They got a late goal on a power play, but the response from our veteran group was probably the key," coach Randy Carlyle said. "We had all kinds of opportunities, and territorially we had the advantage. But the scoreboard didn't indicate that."

The Ducks, who came in averaging a league-leading 17.8 penalty minutes, received three penalties in the final nine minutes and were burned on the final power play. Andrew Brunette threw the puck into the slot from the right boards and it skipped off the blade of Anaheim forward Samuel Pahlsson's stick before Milan Hejduk backhanded his 24th goal past Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

"Taking three straight penalties is not something you want to do, obviously," said Niedermayer, whose hooking penalty in overtime last Tuesday against Vancouver resulted in the winning goal by Daniel Sedin. "This was a good win, being able to bounce back after giving up that power-play goal."

Less than two minutes after Hejduk's goal, Niedermayer beat Jose Theodore to the glove side with a screened wrist shot. Moments later, Hejduk received a four-minute high-sticking penalty after cutting McDonald, and Pronger capitalized with a one-timer through a screen from 40 feet that also eluded Theodore's glove.

"Last night we had a two-goal lead and blew that one. This time, you get back in it 3-3 and end up losing again," Colorado captain Joe Sakic said. "It's been our problem all year, and we can't seem to get away from that. Right now we've just got to find a way to win a hockey game."

Andy McDonald had two goals and an assist for Anaheim and Teemu Selanne added one of each, helping the Pacific Division leaders avoid a four-game season sweep by the last-place team in the Northwest Division. Giguere made 24 saves.

Sakic and Mark Rycroft also scored for the Avalanche, who lost their third straight and 11th in 16 games.

"We battled like crazy tonight and got ourselves right there with five minutes to go, but we didn't get it into overtime," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We do a lot of good things, but it's the things we've got to try to prevent that we've been stressing."

Colorado's Karlis Skrastins, who injured a knee in Saturday's shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings, had his NHL-record, consecutive-game streak among defenceman snapped at 495 games. He broke Tim Horton's mark nine games earlier.

Skrastins had not missed a game since Feb. 18, 2000, when he was with the Nashville Predators. Vancouver's Brendan Morrison now holds the league's longest current streak for any position at 492 games.

"I knew sooner or later it was going to end. Nothing lasts forever," Skrastins said. "But I was happy with the streak. There were some good memories for me."

After squandering a 2-0 lead, Anaheim grabbed a 3-2 lead just 44 seconds before the second intermission. Selanne got a step on former Ducks defenceman Kurt Sauer and redirected McDonald's pass from the left boards for his 37th goal.

Rycroft trimmed Anaheim's lead to 2-1 at 18:15 of the first period, charging to the net and redirecting Ian Laperriere's pass between Giguere's legs for his fourth goal and first since Dec. 19.

Sakic, playing in his 1,300th NHL regular-season game, tied it five minutes into the second with a power-play goal. It was his team-high 27th goal and 601st of his career, tying Jari Kurri for 16th place on the NHL list.

Only two minor penalties were called in the first period - both against Colorado defenceman Ken Klee. It took McDonald eight seconds into the second power play to give the Ducks a 2-0 lead with his 18th goal and second of the game. Selanne's slap shot from the left circle hit the right post, but McDonald swept the rebound behind Theodore at 14:21 of the period before Sauer could clear it.

Notes: Skrastins was second in the league in blocked shots last season (207) and third this season (174). ... Colorado C Paul Stastny extended his point streak to 12 games with an assist on Hejduk's goal. It's the longest point streak by a rookie since 1992-93, when Selanne had a run during the final 17 games of the season with the Winnipeg Jets.


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