The Colorado Avalanche haven’t had a problem starting strong lately. Closing out their opponents, though, has been a major concern.
Colorado looks to end that trend Monday night when it goes for its fifth straight victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who return home for their fourth game in six nights.
“They hurt a little more, especially when you lose a 2-0 lead and knowing we’re having a tough time finishing the hockey games,” said Hendricks, who was activated from injured reserve earlier Saturday along with Avalanche captain Adam Foote(notes).
Colorado has scored first in four of its last five losses.
“We can do it for 60 minutes, we’ve done it this year for 60 minutes in many games. We still have a strong record, it’s a matter of the message getting through,” said Avalanche coach Joe Sacco, whose club has dropped eight of 10 to fall behind Northwest Division-leading Calgary in the standings. “You’re going to have times when teams put pressure on you, but that’s when you tighten it up and buckle down.”
If Peter Budaj(notes) gets his third start of the season in goal Monday, he’ll try to help Colorado avoid its first four-game skid of 2009-10. The Avalanche, though, are 4-0-0 against Tampa Bay since a 3-0 loss March 1, 2004.
In the teams’ last meeting, Colorado won 2-1 in a shootout Dec. 18.
“I thought we looked a little tired after traveling (Tampa Bay defeated the visiting New York Rangers 5-1 on Friday), but they had to travel too,” said Smith, who is 1-0-1 with a 0.96 GAA in two career starts versus Colorado. “It looked like we were a little behind on some plays.”
Lightning center Steven Stamkos(notes) hasn’t been. The first overall pick in 2008 scored his team-leading 17th goal Saturday 47 seconds before teammate Jeff Halpern(notes) found the back of the net as Tampa Bay erased a 3-1 third-period deficit.
Stamkos, who leads Tampa Bay with 29 points, has three goals and four assists during his four-game point streak.
Halpern has found the back of the net in five consecutive games versus Colorado, including the game-tying goal in the Dec. 18 matchup.
Tampa Bay, which has lost three in a row at home to the Avalanche, is 6-1-4 at St. Pete Times Forum.
The Lightning’s last victory against Colorado was 3-0 in Denver on March 1, 2004.