<
>

Blake helps Avalanche win third straight game

12/24/2002

DENVER (AP) -- Tony Granato wanted his new club to make a
statement against one of the best teams in the league.

They did.

Rob Blake had two goals and an assist as the Colorado Avalanche
beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 Monday night for their third
straight win under Granato.

"He talked about that a bit before the game and I think he's
right,'' said Colorado's Dean McAmmond, who had a goal and two
assists. "We have to beat those teams if we're going to get where
we're shooting for.''

Colorado opened the season winless in eight home games and never
really recovered, which led general manager Pierre Lacroix to fire
coach Bob Hartley last week.

The Avalanche have responded with some of their best hockey of
the season.

Colorado has knocked off three of the league's best teams during
its first three-game winning streak of the season. The Avalanche
are unbeaten in five straight.

Against Vancouver, the Avalanche got a goal and two assists from
Derek Morris and ended a 1-for-29 slump with three power-play goals
to win for the fourth time in five home games.

"I don't know if there is any magic formula. I think we are
just playing well,'' Granato said. "We knew in the last three
games the importance of playing teams that are in front of us in
the division. The big guys made plays when they had to and we got
the job done.''

Coming off victories over Edmonton and Minnesota, it didn't take
the Avalanche long to keep the momentum going.

Morris opened the scoring on a power play four minutes in,
beating Peter Skudra to the glove side from the top of the left
circle -- Colorado's first goal with a man advantage in four games
and second in eight home games.

Blake made it 2-0 with 51 seconds left, flipping a wrister from
the right circle just inside the opposite post.

He followed with a power-play goal at 7:02 of the second,
scoring from the left circle after a shot by Morris bounced off the
boards behind Skudra.

It was Blake's fifth goal of the season and his first two-goal
game since Nov. 18 last year against New Jersey.

Milan Hejduk made it 4-0 with 4:02 left, beating Skudra from the
right of the crease after Alex Tanguay slipped a pass between Marek
Malik and Mats Lindgren.

It was Hejduk's 14th of the season and extended his point streak
to eight games, a season high for Colorado.

Skudra, who had won two straight in place of injured starter Dan
Cloutier, was replaced by Tyler Moss after Hejduk's goal.

"This was one of those game,'' Skudra said. "You can't expect
to play 82 games of perfect hockey. There will be nights like this.
Colorado didn't hold anything back.''

Henrik Sedin scored Vancouver's first goal with 2:47 left in the
second period when he flipped a shot over Patrick Roy, who was
still on his back after trying to stop a shot by Markus Naslund.

Vancouver's Trevor Letowski made it 5-2 just 50 seconds into the
third period, punching in a loose puck after Roy pinned a shot
against the post with his skate.

Naslund scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season, but
it came with just 2:07 left in the game.

"We have to be more prepared to play in games like this,'' said
Vancouver coach Marc Crawford, whose team lost for just the second
time in seven games.

"We haven't had very many starts like this all year. To their
credit they regrouped a little bit in the third period, but at the
same time we can't kid ourselves. It was a little bit too late.''

Roy stopped 33 shots after turning away 45 in a 4-2 victory over
Minnesota on Saturday.

Game notes
The teams have met four times this season, but won't see
each other again until Feb. 13. ... Avalanche C Joe Sakic missed
his fifth consecutive game with a sprained right ankle. ... Naslund
has seven goals in six games. ... Colorado is 41-20-11 in December
since 1997, including 5-2-1-1 this season. ... Vancouver lost for
just the fourth time in 18 road games (12-4-2).