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Game 3: Avalanche 6, Sharks 2

photo courtesy of Getty Images

Both the stellar past and the brilliant future of the Colorado Avalanche took center stage last night as the team thoroughly crushed the visiting San Jose Sharks, 6-2.

Joe Sakic, longtime Avalanche captain and sure-fire Hall of Fame inductee, scored a goal and an assist, moving him past Bobby Hull on the all-time goal list (611) and past Phil Esposito on the all-time scoring list (1591).  He continues to cement his place in hockey history as one of the greatest, most complete players to ever hit the ice.

On the other end of the Avalanche timeline, young Paul Stastny, who made such a huge impact last season in his rookie campaign, continues to awe the league.  He scored his first hat trick ever in the first Avalanche game of the season.  Not to be outdone by himself, Son Of Stastny scored five points for the first time in his career by notching a goal and four assists against the Sharks last night.  He now leads the NHL in goals and total scoring.  Said Stastny of his accomplishments:

I don't think they're coming easy. I've gotten a couple of good bounces ... I'm playing with some good linemates.

Stastny assisted on both first period Avalanche goals, the first by Sakic and the second by Milan Hejduk, both on the power play.  With the score 2-1 (Ryan Clowe scored in the second for San Jose), Stastny then scored a goal of his own less than a minute into the third period.  The flood gates had opened.  Three more Avalanche goals followed, scored by Hejduk, Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth.  Smyth's goal and an earlier assist were his first points ever scored in an Avalanche jersey.

The Colorado defense was impressive, led by Scott Hannan and Jordan Leopold in ice time, and rarely gave up decent scoring chances.  Coach Joel Quenneville must be pushing fancy stick work in practice because the poke check was the weapon of choice among the Avalanche blueliners.  Every single Sharks play seemed to be broken up by a perfectly placed Colorado hockey stick.  Intercepted passes and successful clearing attempts were the norm.

Hannan and principal linemate Brett Clark completely shut down the top San Jose line led by Joe Thornton.  They couldn't string together many scoring opportunities at all.  The Avalanche defense also turned up their physical play with 19 hits, most of them from Jeff Finger, who took the place of Karlis Skrastins, who was a healthy scratch.  Finger played very physically all night, while also scoring an assist when his slap shot from the point in the third period was redirected into the net by Svatos.

Peter Budaj looked better than he has at any point so far in the season, with extremely strong positional play.  He stopped 24 of 26 shots for a save percentage of .923.  Redeeming himself after the 4-0 loss to Nashville earlier in the week was critical, and he did that.

The Avs were once again horrid in the face-off circle, going 22-61.  They took 25 shots on goal against the Sharks' 26.

The next game for the Avalanche isn't until this Friday, October 12th, against the St. Louis Blues.

Stars Of The Game:

  1.  Paul Stastny
  1.  Milan Hejduk
  1.  Ryan Smyth