Avalanche 3, Sharks 1

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DENVER (AP)—The Colorado Avalanche were worried about just getting into the playoffs two months ago.

The focus has changed.

Milan Hejduk had two goals and an assist, and Patrick Roy stopped 22 shots as the Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 Monday night to pull within two games of Vancouver in the Northwest Division.

“There is time,” Colorado’s Peter Forsberg said. “I mean there are three games for us to play. If we can win all of them, who knows?”

It’s hard to imagine the Avalanche would even have a chance after the way they played early this season.

Colorado opened the season winless in its first eight games at home and dropped 13 games behind Vancouver after a 4-2 loss to Detroit on Jan. 16.

Since then, Colorado is unbeaten in a team-record 16 straight home games (13-0-2-1) to inch closer to an NHL-record ninth division title.

“It’s a target. We have been playing well,” Roy said.

Colorado is 23-4-3-3 its last 33 games to reach 100 points for the fourth time in eight years in Denver and eclipse the 40-win mark for the eighth consecutive year.

Forsberg has been the key playmaker during the run.

He set up all three goals to reach the 100-point mark for the second time in his career and extended his point streak to six games. Forsberg has 102 points, one behind Vancouver’s Markus Naslund for the NHL scoring lead, with 10 goals and 32 assists coming in the past 26 games.

“When you play with a guy like Peter you have to keep your stick on the ice and be aware,” said Hejduk, who has 46 goals. “There is always a chance.”

Roy was solid on the night he became the first goalie in NHL history to eclipse 60,000 minutes.

He allowed a goal just over nine minutes in, but turned away everything else after reaching the milestone at 10 minutes of the first period.

Roy stopped the Sharks on two power plays in a span of two minutes in the second and later gloved a shot by Scott Hannan just before Jonathan Cheechoo came crashing into him. He also made four tough saves on a power play late in the third.

Roy has allowed five goals in six games and two or fewer in 23 of 27.

“If you ask him, I think he’s playing some of the best hockey in his career over the last few months,” Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. “That’s a good sign for us. He is our backbone and that is why we have been able to be successful.”

Evgeni Nabokov stopped 25 shots for San Jose, 1-3-0-1 in its last five. The Sharks haven’t won on the road since Feb. 27 against Vancouver 0-6-0-1.

“I’m happy with the way we’ve worked,” Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. “In a time that would be easy to give up, we haven’t.”

San Jose at least got off to a good start, with Marco Sturm opening the scoring 9:30 in with his third goal in two games. Sturm’s 28th of the season came on a rebound after Roy stopped a wraparound attempt by Patrick Marleau.

But that was it for the Sharks.

Hejduk tied it with 3:07 left, one-timing a pass from Martin Skoula after setting up at the right post.

Derek Morris put Colorado up 2-1 midway through the second, one-timing a pass from Hejduk from the top of the left circle. Hejduk set up Morris’ career-high 10th of the season by circling back from the right faceoff dot to the top of the circles.

Hejduk put it away with two minutes left, beating Nabokov stickside from the top of the circles.

“They are a pretty good team,” Sturm said. “They’ve got one of the best defensemen in the league and an awesome goalie. If you look at the first two,three lines it’s pretty good.”

Notes

The league office made a scoring change from Colorado’s 6-1 victory over Phoenix on Saturday. Alex Tanguay was credited with the Avalanche’s first goal instead of Skoula. … Forsberg, who extended his point streak to six games, also had 100 points in 1995-96, when he had a career-high 116. … Cheechoo left the ice holding a towel to the left side of his face after his collision with Roy, but was back on the bench by the end of the period. … San Jose’s Teemu Selanne had his stick get stuck between two panes of glass late in the second after a collision with former teammate Bryan Marchment. Selannetugged on the stick a couple of times before yanking it free.

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Goaltending

Goalie Team Shot Save
Evgeni Nabokov SJ 28 25
Patrick Roy Col 23 22