Avalanche tops Coyotes
DENVER - Subbing for Patrick Roy every fourth game or so, rookie Marc Denis is playing more and more like his idol.
Denis recorded his third career shutout, and Joe Sakic and Shjon Podein had first-period goals as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-0 Monday night.
''It is a great way to start your career,'' Denis said. ''There's a lot of learning. I still want to always improve myself, my game, everyday. Backing up one of the best, if not the greatest in the game, I think I can't really object.''
Phoenix center Jeremy Roenick said Denis ''made some killer saves. He made a couple on me that were fantastic plays.''
Denis, raising his career record to 7-6-3, had 27 saves and withstood the Coyotes' 5-on-3 advantage in the second period.
The victory snapped Colorado's six-game winless streak (5-0-1) against Phoenix.
''They have had our number for the last couple of years,'' Sakic said. ''That was a team that couldn't beat us for a while. Then the last two years we couldn't beat them. So it's nice.
''This puts us one point ahead of them (in the Western Conference). Not that that means much this early in the year, but we've got some momentum going and we just want to keep building on that.''
In their last meeting, Colorado lost in Phoenix 7-0. ''I'm sure that was in the back of everybody's mind,'' Denis said. ''We really wanted to get off to a good start. We just used that momentum and went with it.''
Phoenix's Robert Esche posted 28 saves.
For the third straight game, Colorado scored in the opening minute. Peter Forsberg, whose availability was uncertain because of a bruised right knee, passed from the left circle to Sakic, whose shot from the slot beat Esche just 13 seconds in.
Forsberg and Sakic extended their point streaks to 12 and 10 games, respectively.
''They've started very, very fast the last few games and that was something we weren't prepared for,'' Roenick said. ''Give away the puck and it ended up in our net.
''Those weren't the two guys we wanted to see with the puck anyway. It is as good as in your net when you give it to those two.''
At 13:20, Brian Rolston carried the puck along the right boards and fed Podein, just inside the right circle. It was Podein's sixth goal and his first since Dec. 18.
Colorado outshot Phoenix 15-9 in the period.
Both teams missed prime scoring chances in a scoreless second period. Colorado's Chris Drury lost control of the puck on a breakaway, and Phoenix's Juha Ylonen shot wide on a 2-on-1.
The Coyotes had a 5-on-3 advantage which should have lasted for 1:31. They failed to score when Denis had stops on Roenick and Shane Doan, and then a cross-checking penalty against Dallas Drake shortened the two-man advantage to one minute. Denis later deflected a hard shot from Rick Tocchet.
''That was critical,'' said Coyotes coach Bob Francis of the failed 5-on-3 situation. ''But you have to give Denis credit. He made some stops when they needed them. We had some opportunities and he made the stops.''
Colorado killed off two more penalties in the third, extending their streak to 20 straight, and Denis had a nice glove save off Deron Quint in the closing minutes.
Forsberg said he was ''hurting a little bit this morning. In the beginning (of the game) it was a little stiff, but after that it was nothing.''
Colorado, 8-0-1 in its last nine home games, was without defenseman Alexei Gusarov, serving the second game of a two-game suspension for a hit on Pittsburgh's Matthew Barnaby last Thursday.
Earlier Monday, Colorado general manager Pierre Lacroix signed a long-term contract extension with the team.