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Stewart scores in eighth round of shootout, lifting Avalanche over Blackhawks

DENVER - Chris Stewart formulated a plan as he fidgeted on the bench, readying himself just in case the shootout dragged out that long.

When his turn came, Stewart went to work, skating down the side, cutting over and lining the puck under the pads of Chicago goalie Antti Niemi - just as he envisioned.

Stewart scored in the eighth round of the shootout, helping the NHL-leading Colorado Avalanche remain unbeaten at home with a 4-3 victory over the Blackhawks on Friday night.

In truth, Stewart's plan of action wasn't an entirely unique strategy. He picked it up from teammate Milan Hejduk.

"I just came off the wing and did the old Hejduk - shoot low blocker," Stewart said.

Dustin Byfuglien had a chance to tie, but sent his slap shot just wide.

The two teams have made lengthy shootouts a habit this season, going nine rounds on Oct. 10, with the Blackhawks prevailing in that one.

Brent Seabrook thinks he knows why.

"We both have good goaltenders and good shooters," Seabrook said.

Craig Anderson returned to the net after receiving a rare night off. The Avalanche goalie stopped 29 shots, including a vital save in overtime when he turned back Patrick Sharp's shot.

"He gives us a chance to win every night and he did it again tonight," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.

Ryan O'Reilly scored twice for Colorado in regulation, while David Jones added a short-handed goal.

With the win, the Avalanche moved to 6-0 at Pepsi Center this season, matching the franchise record for consecutive home wins to start a season.

Byfuglien, Duncan Keith and Andrew Ladd scored for the Blackhawks, who lost for the second straight night.

Tired legs? Troy Brouwer didn't feel that was the case.

"We have a couple of days off so the back-to-back games aren't too bad," he said. "We came out and had a great start, but we weren't able to maintain it throughout the game."

The Avalanche missed their first two attempts in the shootout, while Patrick Kane scored as he dribbled a puck through Anderson's legs.

Anderson said all he was hoping for was one more chance.

Marek Svatos gave it to him. The Avalanche's last shooter, Svatos scored high on Niemi to force extra rounds.

Anderson took it from there.

"The team did a great job of getting me the lead and I just had to close it out," said Anderson, who started 15 straight games before taking a break Wednesday.

O'Reilly and Jones scored 59 seconds apart in the second period to give the Avalanche a 3-2 lead. Jones had a short-handed goal as he flew down the left side and flipped the puck past Niemi. It was Jones' second goal this season with the Avalanche a skater down.

Late in the second, Chicago tied it at 3 when Ladd poked in the puck that was sitting in front of the net.

Both teams boast a bench full of youthful energy, with the average age on each roster just a shade under 27 years old.

However, Chicago was without one of their young stars as captain Jonathan Toews missed a sixth straight game with a concussion.

Kane and Kris Versteeg helped picked up the slack, each assisting on two goals in an entertaining first period.

Chicago jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal by Byfuglien early in the game, followed by Keith's shot over Anderson's shoulder just over 4 minutes later.

But the lead quickly evaporated.

"We came out and had the start that we wanted, and got up a couple goals and got a little bit complacent," Brouwer conceded.

The Avalanche worked their way back into the game and Stewart took it from there - just like his coach figured he would.

"I had him in Lake Erie (of the AHL) and he had a knack for scoring in the shootout," Sacco said. "I had a good feeling that when he was going, he was going to score."

NOTES: Avalanche D Ruslan Salei (back) said he's making steady progress toward a return. Asked how much longer he'd be sidelined, Salei said, "More than a week, less than a month." ... Hejduk played in his 800th game, the fourth player in franchise history to reach that milestone. ... Avs D John-Michael Liles injured his shoulder in the first period and didn't return.


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