DENVER (AP)—Cody McLeod is a fighter with a touch of finesse.
Colorado’s tough guy scored the tiebreaking goal with seven minutes left, and the Avalanche snapped the Dallas Stars’ five-game winning streak with a 3-2 victory on Thursday night.
McLeod is one of two players in the NHL this season who have at least 10 goals and 100 penalty minutes. The other is St. Louis’ David Backes.
“Just kind of hard-nosed, grind, take the pucks to the net, finish checks, get under guys skin. Energy guy,” is how McLeod describes his game.
Like any enforcer, though, he doesn’t like talking about his smoothness with the puck.
“Just kind of crash and bang and go to the net hard,” he said. “I think anybody’s going to score if they go to the net hard—get dirty around the net, get rebounds. Definitely a little bit of luck around there, too, maybe. You’re not going to get bounces if you don’t work hard.”
McLeod, who was whistled for hooking in the first period, scored his 12th goal of the season when he circled around the net and fired a shot that somehow found its way in off goalie Marty Turco’s skate.
“You throw pucks at the net and sooner or later they’re going to go in,” McLeod said.
Turco took full blame.
“Went under my stick and off my foot into the net,” Turco said. “Not much more to it. It’s going to happen. You’ve got to be committal to that effort to staying low. … Just a bad goal at a terrible time of the game for us.”
And it sent the Stars to just their eighth loss since Nov. 30.
“Feeling sorry for ourselves is not what we’re all about. It’s putting our best foot forward the next night. It’s going to be a tough one,” said Turco, already looking forward to the Stars’ game against the New York Rangers on Friday night.
The Stars pulled Turco with 1:15 left for an extra skater, but the Avalanche remained the only team in the league without an empty-net goal. At the other end, Peter Budaj made his 22nd save with 20 seconds left.
The Avs have played an NHL-high 30 one-goal games, and they are 18-11-1.
Marek Svatos broke a 1-1 tie with a power-play goal just 42 seconds into the third period.
Svatos camped to Turco’s right as both teams scrambled for the puck just outside the crease. Wojtek Wolski scooted the puck to him, and he knocked it in on the power play for his third goal in two games.
The first period was about to finish scoreless when Steve Ott pushed the puck past Budaj with just 40 seconds left. Matt Niskanen took a shot from just inside the blue line, and Ott stuck his stick out, tipping the puck over Budaj’s left shoulder.
Colorado tied it at 1 in the second period when Milan Hejduk took a pass from Ryan Smyth, sliced toward the net and scored over a sprawled out Turco. Hejduk’s goal moved him into sole possession of fifth place on the franchise’s career scoring list. He had been tied with Aston Stastny at 636 points.
“I brought it to the net and tried to be a little bit more patient. Turco kind of opened up the short side and there was room upstairs, so I went there,” said Hejduk, who reached the 20-goal mark for the ninth straight season.
The Avs closed out their season-high, eight-game homestand 3-5. Their other wins came against the Northwest Division-leading Calgary Flames. … The Avs play 10 of their next 12 on the road. … The last team to go without an empty-net goal was the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005-06.