ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Colorado Avalanche remained in contention for an unprecedented ninth straight division title—barely.
Milan Hejduk scored his second goal of the game with 10 seconds left in overtime and the Avalanche beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4-3 Friday night, despite blowing a two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation.
“To still be in the hunt with only one game left says a lot about the guys on this team,” coach Tony Granato said. “All we can do now is prepare for the game on Sunday.”
Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote also scored for the Avalanche, who need a win in Sunday’s regular-season finale against St. Louis—and a loss by the Vancouver Canucks against Los Angeles—to capture the Northeast Division crown. By going overtime, Colorado got the point it needed to clinch home-ice advantage in the first round.
“Vancouver is the heavy favorite, but it’s just one game, and L.A. could win it,” Hejduk said. “We’ve been focused on getting the home-ice advantage in the first round. Once we did that tonight, we tried to win the game.”
Hejduk leads the NHL with 49 goals—one more than Vancouver’s Markus Naslund. His winner also gave the Avalanche a franchise-record seventh overtime win and tied the league’s single-season record with their 28th overtime game of the season. The record was set three seasons ago by Edmonton and Vancouver.
Hejduk scored his first goal just 72 seconds after the opening faceoff, carrying the puck into the Anaheim zone and scoring on a 30-foot wrist shot from the slot as Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere fanned on it with his stick.
“I’d like to get 50,” Hejduk said. “It’s not something you can do every year, and it would be in a big game.”
Hejduk ended this one when he cruised down the slot and redirected defenseman Rob Blake’s centering pass from the top of the right circle. It was the 23rd goal in 29 games for Hejduk.
“I knew he’s be there. He’s always around the net,” Blake said. “You can count on him.”
Forsberg, trying to become the first player in franchise history to win the league’s scoring title, increased his point total to 103 with his 28th goal. He trails Naslund by one point in the race for the Art Ross Trophy.
Anaheim’s Steve Thomas had two goals, along with his 500th NHL assist. Niclas Havelid also scored for the playoff-bound Mighty Ducks, who completed the most successful regular season in their 10-year history with 95 points and a 40-27-9-6 record. Last season, they finished last in the Pacific Division and 13th in the Western Conference at 29-42-8-3.
It was a 5-3 win at Colorado on Jan. 9 that ended a 0-6-1 slide and triggered a 12-4-0 stretch and turned Anaheim’s season around.
“We started out a long way from a playoff berth, so it’s been a very successful season,” Anaheim’s Paul Kariya said.
Thomas has 10 goals in 12 games since coming to Anaheim in a March 11 trade from Chicago. The 19-year veteran, who scored only four times in 69 games with the Blackhawks, has more goals since the trading deadline than than any other player who changed teams.
“I was playing nine, 10 minutes a game when I was in Chicago. Now I’m playing 17, 18 minutes a game,” Thomas said. “I’m going to go out there in the playoffs and hopefully set a good example. I don’t have any problems stepping up and trying to help out.”
Colorado goalie Patrick Roy extended his own NHL-record victory total to 550with 19 saves, after blowing a 3-1 lead in the third period.
The Mighty Ducks, who drew only their seventh sellout, finished with an average home attendance of 13,915—just 1,913 per game more than last season. … Roy, a three-time Vezina Trophy winner, has never won the trophy since Colorado acquired him from Montreal in December 1995. … The Avalanche, who lost the first three meetings with Anaheim, have never been swept in a season series of four or more games in the eight years since the franchise relocated from Quebec to Denver. … A club-record four players—Kariya, Petr Sykora, Havelid and Steve Rucchin—appeared in every game for Anaheim during the regular season. … Colorado’s Mike Keane does not have a point in his last 22 games. Avalanche captain Joe Sakic has no goals in his last nine games, hislongest drought this season.