DETROIT - After a dozen scoreless games in his return to Detroit, Jiri Hudler finally put the puck in the net—by shooting right at the goalie.
Hudler banked the puck in from behind the net off Peter Budaj's skate in the second period, and the Red Wings went on to beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on Saturday night. It was Hudler's first NHL goal in more than 19 months. He came back to Detroit after spending last season in Russia.
"When I was behind the net, I saw his pad a little bit," Hudler said. "Thank God it went in. The first one is really important, I think. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it sooner, but it's behind me right now."
Hudler's goal put Detroit ahead 2-0. Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary also scored for the Red Wings, who have won nine of 11.
Jimmy Howard stopped 21 shots for Detroit, allowing only John-Michael Liles' third-period goal when Colorado had a two-man advantage. Howard is 22-1-3 in his last 26 regular-season starts, dating to last season.
Hudler was serving a slashing penalty immediately before his goal, but he left the penalty box right as the Red Wings were clearing their zone and found himself alone against Budaj.
"The guy in the penalty box opened the door at the right second," Hudler said.
Hudler couldn't convert on the breakaway, but the puck came back to him behind the net. He flung the puck off Budaj's left skate and in for his first goal with Detroit since April 5, 2009.
Hudler scored 23 goals in 2008-09 for the Red Wings but didn't have any through his first 12 games this season.
"It's good to see because we need his skill," Cleary said. "He's going to be an important player for us."
Bertuzzi opened the scoring on the power play with 7:02 left in the first, skating in from the right boards and beating Budaj with a wrist shot over his left shoulder.
"It was good to see Bert think shoot," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "Usually Bert doesn't take that shot."
Hudler scored 30 seconds into the second, and Cleary made it 3-0 with 14:08 left in the period on a backhand to Budaj's glove side, extending his goal streak to five games. It was his seventh of the season.
It was only the third loss in regulation in nine road games for Colorado, which has withstood early-season injuries to compete well in the Western Conference. The Avalanche got defenceman Adam Foote back after he missed eight games because of a concussion, but they couldn't recover after falling behind early.
Liles spoiled the shutout bid, patiently working his way around a sprawling defender and putting the puck past Howard with 14:32 to play. The Red Wings went nearly 15 minutes without a shot to start the third, but they also kept Colorado from getting too many clean scoring chances, even when the Avalanche pulled Budaj with over two minutes remaining.
"They're known to people as a talented team but they're a hardworking team, too," Budaj said. "They have a lot of skill but they have lots of work ethic, too."
Colorado was coming off a 5-1 win over Columbus on Friday night.
Notes: Detroit D Nicklas Lidstrom extended his point streak to 11 games with an assist on Hudler's goal. Pavel Datsyuk had his 10-game streak snapped. ... The Avalanche won in Detroit on Oct. 12, 5-4 in a shootout. ... Former Red Wings forward Dino Ciccarelli, a recent inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame, dropped the ceremonial first puck. ... Detroit's Kris Draper (hernia surgery) skated before the game but didn't play. He has missed all 15 games this season.