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Wolski's overtime goal lifts Avalanche to 4-3 win over Rangers

DENVER - No Joe Sakic. No Ryan Smyth. No worries.

Wojtek Wolski tapped in the winning shot 1:16 into overtime, and Milan Hejduk scored twice in the Colorado Avalanche's 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night.

It was the Avalanche's seventh straight victory over the Rangers, who haven't beaten Colorado since a 5-3 win on Nov. 20, 2001, at Madison Square Garden. New York hasn't won in Denver since 1998.

"You can't replace Sakic and Smyth," Wolski said. "We miss them a lot."

But the Avs are persevering without their stars. Sakic missed his 11th game since injuring his groin Nov. 30 at San Jose, and Smyth sat out his second straight game because of stiffness in his neck.

The tandem has combined for 18 goals and 32 assists this season. When asked how the team could make up for missing Smyth and Sakic, defenceman Scott Hannan smiled and said, "You don't."

Hejduk and Paul Stastny are certainly trying to fill their shoes. Hejduk scored both his second-period goals on assists from Stastny.

"It was time for someone else to pick it up. They did a nice job," Wolski said.

Wolski just happened to be in the proper place at the proper time on the game winner. Jeff Finger gathered up a loose puck in the Rangers' zone and fired a shot at Henrik Lundqvist, who had the puck trickle through his pads. Wolski simply knocked it in for his 12th goal of the season.

"I was changing and trying to get into the play," Finger explained. "The puck happened to bounce out to me. I had so much time - almost too much time. I hit the shot as hard as I could."

Rangers coach Tom Renney chalked up the overtime goal to a slow line change.

"They jumped off their bench awfully early on their line change, and we weren't astute enough to do the same thing," Renney said. "We were too late to pick anybody up."

Marek Svatos tied it at 3 midway through the third period. Svatos got the puck in front of the net, fanned on his first attempt, composed himself and knocked it in for his 11th goal of the season.

Brendan Shanahan, Michal Rozsival and Marc Staal scored for the Rangers, coming off a 6-3 loss in Minnesota the night before in which Wild forward Marian Gaborik scored five goals.

Peter Budaj stopped 20 shots, including a sliding save to thwart a shot from Fedor Tyutin with four minutes remaining. Budaj said that while the Rangers didn't have a large quantity of shots, they were quality chances.

"It was tougher than it looked," Budaj said. "They have great players everywhere."

Scott Gomez and Martin Straka each had two assists for the Rangers.

The Avalanche took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period, but the Rangers answered with goals from Rozsival and Staal, which came 1:05 apart.

Jaromir Jagr had an assist on Rozsival's goal, giving the Czech star 926 for his career. He's tied with Stan Mikita for 15th place on the career assists list.

Shanahan scored his 639th goal in the first period, leaving him one behind Dave Andreychuk for 11th place on the career list. Shanahan leads all active goal scorers.

Chris Drury was credited with an assist on Shanahan's goal, giving him five points in nine career games against his former team. Drury spent his first four seasons playing for the Avalanche.

Colorado missed multiple opportunities to score in the opening period, including a breakaway by Svatos on a four-minute power play that came courtesy of a high-sticking call on Rozsival.

New York also withstood a 5-on-3 power play by Colorado late in the first period. Lundqvist turned back a point-blank shot by Stastny, which was the Avalanche's best scoring chance during the two-man advantage that lasted 1:43.

"We were lucky to have the lead after the first," Lundqvist said. "They are a good team, no question - a lot of speed. It felt like they were flying. We worked really hard, but it felt like they were a little better than us tonight."

And that was without Sakic and Smyth.

Notes: Colorado assistant coach Tony Granato was drafted by the Rangers in 1982 and scored 36 goals in his rookie season, which is still a team record. ... D Jordan Leopold missed his second straight game due to a laceration on his right leg. ... New York LW Marcel Hossa missed his fourth game because of the flu. ... Colorado is 14-3-0 at the Pepsi Center this season. ... Hejduk had his fourth multi-goal game of the season.



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