DENVER (AP)—In the new NHL, a 3-0 deficit is nothing anymore, even for a Colorado team that’s having so much trouble in goal that its former starter was in street clothes and his replacement was yanked after just 3 minutes.
The Avalanche needed just 8 minutes to tie Phoenix, then scored four times in the third period for a 7-4 victory Monday night. They tied a franchise record with three short-handed goals.
Milan Hejduk capped the comeback when he took a perfect pass from Alex Tanguay through the crease and flipped it over Brian Boucher’s right shoulder to snap a 4-4 tie with 8:42 remaining, just as a 5-on-3 advantage was about to end.
The Avs, who entered the final period trailing 4-3, tied it on a rebound goal by Marek Svatos, his 20th, off a wraparound attempt by Pierre Turgeon. They added empty-net goals in the final minute from Ian Laperriere and Karlis Skrastins.
It was a crazy ending to a wild night that began with neither of the starting goalies lasting through the first period.
“That was definitely a strange game,” Avs coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a couple of games where we had the three-goal lead and let it get away from us earlier in the year. I liked the way we battled back. Even though we were down by three goals, we were still positive.”
Vitaliy Kolesnik of Colorado got a quick hook after surrendering two goals on the only shots he faced in the first 3:20, and Curtis Joseph of the Coyotes was lifted after allowing three goals in four shots.
“It was so weird, just the start of it,” Laperriere said. “Goalies coming in and out. Weird game, but we found a way to win and that’s all that matters right now.”
Kolesnik surrendered both of his goals to right wing Shane Doan, the first of which came off a terrific centering pass from left wing Ladislav Nagy just 31 seconds after the puck was dropped. The second was on a wrist shot from the right point.
Doan would rather have gotten the win than his first multi-goal game of the season.
“You learn that you don’t sit on leads,” he said. “We came out early and got the lead. It makes this game incredibly disappointing to lose it.”
Sakic tied it at 3 with his 16th goal on an unusual play in which Tanguay passed to him from behind the net and the puck ricocheted off his left leg and into the net. After a review confirmed the goal, the Coyotes pulled Joseph for Boucher.
“He was struggling early,” Coyotes interim coach Rick Tocchet said. “I made the change to slow the game down.”
In the second period, the Avs survived a 5-on-3 disadvantage but seconds after killing both power plays they allowed the Coyotes to go ahead 4-3 when Geoff Sanderson scored off Patrice Brisebois’s turnover in the neutral zone.
Their third-period rally made them forget for a moment all the problems they’ve had in goal all season. David Aeibischer was the starter two months ago but is usually a scratch nowadays, and Kolesnik might as well have joined him in street clothes Monday night.
“Three goalies is a tough situation to be in and we will address that at the right time, though I don’t want to say when,” Quenneville said. “We responded tonight to a tough start in net, and Budaj helped stabilize us tonight. I thought he was solid. The first goal on him was tipped.”
With the new rules and more power plays, no lead seems safe and no deficit appears too big.
“I would take a 3-0 lead every night,” Tocchet said. “We didn’t quit. Some guys think it’s easy. It’s hard to win. It’s uncomfortable to win. I thought we were into it early and let Colorado off the hook. That’s where your leadership takes over and you don’t let it happen. In the end somebody has to go to the net. Somebody has to block a shot.”
The Coyotes fell to 2-3-0 under Tocchet, who took over Dec. 17 when Wayne Gretzky put his coaching career on hold after his mother’s health worsened. She died of lung cancer two days later in Brantford, Ontario. The Coyotes haven’t said when Gretzy will return. … Svatos is tied with Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin for most goals by a rookie. … The Nordiques, who moved to Denver a decade ago, had one game in which they scored three short-handed goals, on Oct. 20, 1984, at Toronto.