DENVER (AP)—A fast start was all the scoring-challenged Colorado Avalanche needed to break out of their injury-induced funk.
The injury-riddled Avalanche have had trouble putting the puck in the net with Joe Sakic (hernia), Ryan Smyth (ankle) and Paul Stastny (appendectomy) sidelined, but they scored three times in the first period off Khabibulin, who hasn’t won since Dec. 26 against Nashville.
“I think tonight was the best first period that we have had all season,” Svatos said. “We came out flying and the forecheck was great. In our zone, we cleared the puck from our end, and I think that is what we have to bring every night. If we had a first period like that every game, we would be very tough to beat.”
Milan Hejduk started it off with a wrist shot from the left circle that he flipped over Khabibulin’s glove. Svatos added a goal two minutes later when he took a pass from Tyler Arnason, who stole the puck from Adam Burish in front of the crease.
With 90 seconds left in the first period, Brad Richardson sent a one-timer between Khabibulin’s pads for his second goal of the season and first since Nov. 24 against Calgary.
“We lost a lot of battles,” Blackhawks defenseman James Wisniewski said. “The puck didn’t bounce our way. And they found the back of the net every time. It wasn’t just one thing. It was everything that went wrong. It’s mind-boggling. How could we let this happen with their top three forwards out?
“There are no easy games in this league any more. You can’t expect to pelt teams. You have to show up and play.”
The Avs’ three first-period goals were the most they’ve scored in a period since getting five against St. Louis in the second period on Dec. 9, and Colorado’s six goals represented its highest output since that night when the Avalanche scored nine against the Blues.
“When you get down 3-0, it’s very difficult to come back,” Chicago coach Denis Savard said. “When you turn the puck over as many times as we did you’re not going to get success. That sums up the game. Too many turnovers. The first goal came off a turnover. We got clobbered in the first period. Way too many turnovers.”
Robert Lang’s shot that trickled into the left corner of the net past Jose Theodore made it 3-1 in the second period, but Andrew Brunette restored Colorado’s three-goal lead with a shot from the slot past Khabibulin that snapped an 0-for-25 streak on the power play on home ice.
Arnason’s fifth goal made it 5-1 early in the third period. Svatos, who came in with a five-game streak without a goal, added his second at 13:56, giving him four two-goal games this season.
“We’re playing well together,” Arnason said of his line that includes Svatos and Wojtek Wolski. “We just have chemistry right now. I don’t know why. No one can explain it, but it’s going well. I think every coach would like to know where chemistry comes from. There’s no real formula for it, just a certain point in time three guys know what each other are going to do, and that’s us right now.”
Theodore, who stopped 10 of 11 shots, was replaced by Peter Budaj to start the third period because of back spasms. Budaj didn’t get much of a workout—he didn’t face a shot on goal until 4:43 remained but he allowed two goals to Yanic Perreault in the closing minutes.
The Avs had lost their first two games against Chicago, including a 2-1 shootout Jan. 18 at home. … These teams wrap up their season series on Feb. 17 in Chicago.