Series (Game 4 of 4)

Colorado leads 3-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 31st
Game 2: Wednesday, February 13th
Game 3: Monday, March 11th
Game 4: Sunday, April 7th

Avalanche 4

(44-27-1, 96 pts)

Blues 2

(39-27-4, 90 pts)

7:00 PM ET, April 7, 2002

Scottrade Center, Saint Louis, Missouri

1 2 3 T
COL 0 3 14
STL 1 0 12

D. Aebischer (Avalanche - G): Saves: 30, Save Pct.: .938

G. de Vries (Avalanche - D): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

K. Tkachuk (Blues - LW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Aebischer helps Avs move into second in West

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Patrick Roy's understudy handled the St. Louis Blues.

Backup goalie David Aebischer made 30 saves, almost half of them in the third period, as the Colorado Avalanche won 4-2 Sunday night to move into second place in the Western Conference.

"He deserves to play," coach Bob Hartley said. "He's learning and he gets some good tests against the good teams. It's an investment for the future for him, and at the same time for the organization."

Joe Sakic had a goal and two assists for the Avalanche, who clinched their eighth straight Northwest Division championship when the Kings beat the Oilers in overtime Saturday night. Hence, Roy's night off.

Hartley said Aebischer, who is 12-6 and has played in 20 games, will get one more start in Colorado's last three games before the playoffs.

"It's always good to win," Aebischer said. "I just try to stay sharp and play good and give the team a chance to win in every game I play."

Radim Vrbata, Riku Hahl and Greg DeVries also scored for Colorado, which took three of four from the Blues in the season series.

The Avalanche won despite getting outshot 32-16, including 15-2 in the third period.

Al MacInnis' 11th goal on the power play, a slap shot from the right circle, cut the gap to one at 16:25 of the third but Sakic got an empty-net goal with one second to go.

Keith Tkachuk also scored for the Blues, who faltered without starting goalie Brent Johnson despite taking the early lead against Aebischer, making his first start since March 17. Johnson is sidelined with a sore right hip flexor.

St. Louis backup Fred Brathwaite made his first start since Feb. 28 and gave up three goals on 11 shots before getting yanked for minor-league call-up Reinhard Divis midway through the second period.

"I have to be making those saves," Brathwaite said. "You know, it's been a little while since I've been in the net. I'm a little rusty."

Johnson, who had made 17 consecutive starts, was listed as day-to-day. He attempted to skate Sunday morning, two days after he was hurt in the Blues' 5-1 victory over the Blackhawks, but didn't stay on the ice long.

"I feel all right, just a little nagging problem," Johnson said. "It'll get better soon."

The Blues also were without captain Chris Pronger, serving the second game of a two-game suspension for cross-checking the Stars' Brenden Morrow on Wednesday.

The Blues entered the game sixth in the tight Western Conference standings, one point behind the Kings and Blackhawks, one point ahead of the Coyotes and only four ahead of the Stars and Canucks -- who were tied for ninth.

The Blues have four games to go, three at home.

Tkachuk scored his 37th goal, and third in two games, on a rebound on a power play at 11:16 of the first period. He connected on a rebound shot while on the way down after Scott Young hit the goal post on a one-timer.

The Avalanche were outshot 9-3 in the first period, but Vrbata tied it on the fourth shot. A Blues turnover led to a break-in and Vrbata got his 18th goal at 4:53 of the second.

Colorado took the lead on a soft goal, a slapper from near the center red line by Hahl at 9:08 that trickled between Brathwaite's pads and then slowly slid across the goal line as the goalie flailed at it too late.

DeVries made it 3-1 on another long shot, getting his eighth goal from just inside the blue line during a power play at 13:54 to chase Brathwaite.

Game notes

Roy had made eight consecutive starts before getting the night off. Roy has a career-best nine shutouts. ... Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder and his wife, Helen, watched the first period from front-row seats and watched the rest of the game from the private box of Blues owner Bill Laurie -- also a big Missouri booster. ... Tkachuk has 44 of his 71 points at home. ... The Avalanche also beat the Blues 3-2 in St. Louis March 11. ... Alex Tanguay had two assists, giving him two goals and four assists in the last four games. ... The Avalanche are unbeaten when leading after two periods, going 33-0-1.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press