Sakic scores three times in first period

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Joe Sakic is returning to form at the
right time for the Colorado Avalanche.

Sakic scored his 12th career hat trick, all three goals coming
in the first period of the Colorado Avalanche's 5-1 victory over
the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

After missing most of the month of February with a broken foot,
Sakic has spent most of his nine games back trying to find his
rhythm offensively.

"I've had some chances but haven't been able to find the net,''
said Sakic, who played on the same line with Steve Reinprecht and
the recently acquired Bates Battaglia. "Tonight everything went

Sakic has one four-goal game and 11 three-goal performances in
his 15 years in the NHL.

"Joe was unbelievable,'' said Reinprecht, who assisted on all
three goals. "He was skating with ease and he really had his
sights set out there. It was his night.''

Colorado has won 19 of its last 25 games.

"We did some good things. We played simple; we took care of our
end first. And, obviously, Joe had a great night shooting the
puck,'' Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "I don't know if
there's any goalie in the league that can stop those shots.''

Patrick Roy had 20 saves as the Avalanche moved to 11-0-1-0 in
the series with Columbus. Roy left the crease frequently in the
second period, almost as though he were trying to keep the game

Greg de Vries and Milan Hejduk each had a goal and an assist.

"It was men against boys. That's the way it looked tonight,''
Columbus interim coach Doug MacLean said. "We weren't close.
They're a great team. That's what $75 million does. It looked like
it tonight.''

David Ling scored his second goal of the year for the Blue
Jackets, who have lost their last four games and are just 2-10-1-1
in the last 14.

Sakic's first goal came at 6:04 as his shot from the right dot
found the net through heavy traffic. He took a drop pass from
Reinprecht and beat Columbus goaltender Marc Denis high on the
stick side for No. 2.

Several hats found their way to the ice after his 24th goal of
the season at 16:21 of the period. Rob Blake carried the puck into
the offensive zone and dropped it to Reinprecht, whose cross-ice
pass to Sakic at the left wing left him with an almost empty net.

"It was five or six,'' he said of the meager number of hats on
the ice. "There were two over by the bench and a couple of others
-- late arrivals.''

Sakic's three goals came in the span of 10:17.

"The last few weeks I've felt I've gotten a lot of chances but
haven't done anything with them,'' Sakic said. "It was good to get
that first one in -- then the second and the third.''

Hejduk's 31st goal came in the opening minute of the second
period after Alex Tanguay pulled the puck away from a defender near
the left boards and fed Hejduk, who was all alone in the slot.

Roy seldom was tested, but Denis was at his best during a
two-minute 5-on-3 after Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre was called for
roughing and Jody Shelley for cross-checking midway through the
second period. Sakic's bid for a fourth goal, a blast from the top
of the right circle, was gloved by Denis.

The Avalanche's de Vries made it 5-1 in the third period,
netting a rebound after Denis and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek
mishandled the puck as they tried to clear it.

"With 12 games to go in the season now, it's important that we
play well,'' Granato said. "There's a lot of good things

Game notes
The fastest an Avalanche player has ever picked up three
goals in a game is 2:17 by Alain Cote against Boston in 1982, when
the franchise was in Quebec. ... Colorado was starting a three-game
road trip and Columbus was playing the middle game of a three-game
homestand. ... Columbus C Espen Knutsen was checked into the boards
in the third period and immediately went to the dressing room with
a sprained wrist.