Scoring first key to Blues beating Avalanche

( - The Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues have shown this season just how important getting the first goal can be.

The fast-starting clubs are set to meet on Thursday night, when the Avalanche try to bounce back from their first road setback of the season and avoid a fifth straight loss in St. Louis.

Both the Avs and Blues are among the best in the league when scoring first. Colorado has done so in 12 of its 17 games this season, going a perfect 12-0-0, while the Blues have scored the first goal of the game in eight straight contests and are 10-1-2 when doing so this campaign.

Not surprisingly, the clubs are both off to great starts. Colorado is 14-3-0 and tied for first place in the Central Division with 28 points thanks to its best start in franchise history through 17 games.

A victory tonight would surpass the 2000-01 team (13-2-3, 29 points) for the best start through 18 games.

Meanwhile, St. Louis is just three points back of Colorado in the division and its 11-2-3 mark through 16 games matches the 2000-01 squad for the best start in team history. A win for the Blues on Thursday would give it 12 wins through 17 games for the first time.

The Blues have won four straight at home versus the Avalanche by a combined 13-4 score, but Colorado is 11-3-1 in the previous 15 matchups overall.

The Avs tied a franchise best by winning their first six road games of the season before dropping a 2-1 decision on Tuesday to the hosting Carolina Hurricanes.

Paul Stastny scored the lone Colorado goal and Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves as the Avs lost for the second time in four games. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist and matched a club rookie record with nine shots.

"I thought we played well enough to win tonight, but unfortunately it was not on our side," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said.

Roy is expected to give the unbeaten Jean-Sebastien Giguere the start tonight and the netminder will try to make some history of his own. Giguere is the fourth goaltender in Avs annuals to win his first five starts of the season -- Varlamov also did it this season -- and is aiming to become the first to open a campaign 6-0.

Giguere has allowed just five goals on 165 shots, good for a 1.00 goals against average and .970 save percentage, and a win tonight would also match his personal-best win streak of six games done twice before. He is 16-8-2 with a tie and 2.42 GAA lifetime versus the Blues.

The Blues are also looking to bounce back from a loss, having dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday despite a season-high 39 shots.

Maxim Lapierre and Roman Polak scored for the Blues, who held the Coyotes to 19 shots, matching a season low, but still had a three-game win streak snapped. Jaroslav Halak made 16 saves.

"The goalie was better than we were," St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock said of Smith. "The goalie was more determined than some of our shooters were."

Alexander Steen notched an assist to extend his point streak to a career-high 11 straight games. He has 10 goals and 14 points over the run.

The Blues conclude a five-game homestand on Saturday versus Carolina and are expected to start Halak tonight. He is 2-2-2 with a 2.61 GAA in six previous meetings with the Avalanche.


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