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Road-weary Avalanche battles past Flames

The SportsXchange

CALGARY, Alberta -- The Colorado Avalanche wanted something to show for their four-game road trip.

They got it.

John Mitchell scored two goals and Paul Stastny had two in an 89-second span in the third period -- scoring the winner on the power play with 2:40 remaining -- and then adding a crucial insurance goal to lead the Avalanche to a 6-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

While the Flames were coming off a four-day break between games, the Avalanche arrived in Calgary after three straight road losses and gutted out a victory that was much closer than the final score indicated.

"We really battled hard tonight," Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco said. "We just finished four games in six nights. We knew we had a tough little grind ahead of us, but credit to the guys, they stuck with it for 60 minutes tonight.

"I thought we had found some good energy there in the third period. It was nice to see. It was a big one for us."

They almost had to work overtime for it.

The score was tied until Stastny jammed a puck through Miikka Kiprusoff's pads on the man-advantage with less than three minutes to go. Flames defenseman Mark Giordano was off serving a tripping penalty when the Avs' highest-paid player poked his first goal of the season over the goal line.

"I think when it's a 3-3 game, last game of a road trip coming off a couple of tough losses, we've just got to find a way to stick in there and give ourselves a chance to win it," Stastny said. "And we did that."

Stastny's late heroics spoiled what should have been a memorable night for Flames forward Jiri Hudler, who had a three-point effort in the loss.

"It was good until the third period. I had a good feeling going," Hudler said. "It's nice, but it means nothing after the game is 6-3. We don't have points we needed."

Hudler opened the scoring, notching his first goal in a Calgary uniform when he grabbed a long rebound and fired a wrister past Avalanche goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Mitchell, still getting to know his new teammates, tied it up with less than a minute remaining before the first intermission, capitalizing on a turnover by Flames defenseman Chris Butler and scoring for the high slot.

Hudler doubled his season scoring totals 1:49 into the second period, finishing off a terrific cross-ice feed from center Matt Stajan on an odd-man rush. Former KHL all-star Roman Cervenka had the other assist, his first career point in the NHL.

The lead lasted less than two minutes before Avalanche winger P.A. Parenteau scored on a backhand from the slot, a shot that shouldn't have slipped through Kiprusoff's five-hole.

Mitchell scored his second of the night with three minutes left before the break in the second period, converting a pass from linemate Chuck Kobasew.

The Flames tied it before the Zamboni rolled out, though, with Hudler setting up Alex Tanguay for a tic-tac-toe effort that is sure to be replayed on the highlight shows.

After Stastny's two goals provided the heroics late in the third period for the Avalanche, Parenteau scored into an empty net to make the score look a bit lopsided.

"We gave the game away. It's as simple as this," Flames head coach Bob Hartley said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win the game offensively. Defensively, we turned the puck away so many times in key situations or in key times of the game.

"We just gave them life. Here's a team that had three games in four nights and instead of going for the killer instinct, we let them back in the game. Whenever you do this to any NHL team, you're taking a big gamble. And we got burned big time."

Giguere, who was making his first start of the season for the Avs, had 25 saves in the victory. Kiprusoff, in his fifth straight game, stopped only 16 of 21 shots.

NOTES: The Avalanche entered Thursday's game as the NHL's most penalized team, with 139 minutes. The Flames, meanwhile, were the least penalized (34 minutes). ... Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog missed his third consecutive game because of head and leg injuries, the result of a controversial check from San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart. ... The Flames announced that rookie left winger Sven Baertschi is week to week with a hip flexor injury he suffered during practice earlier this week ... Hartley guided the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in 2001. He was facing his former team for the fifth time, having posted a 2-1-1 record in the other four meetings with the Avalanche ... According to a report in the Denver Post, restricted free agent center Ryan O'Reilly, who was Colorado's leading point producer last season but has yet to agree to a new deal, will soon resume skating. He is recovering from a sprained ankle.
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