DENVER - With Joe Sakic out of the lineup, the Colorado Avalanche needed someone to step up. Milan Hejduk filled in just fine.
Hejduk notched his fifth career hat trick and added three assists to lead the Avalanche past the St. Louis Blues, 9-5 on Sunday night for the 1,000th NHL win in franchise history.
"He's always been a top-calibre guy and probably the best goal-scorer on this team," Paul Stastny said. "Even when Joe was here he was stepping up, and now he's gotten a couple more goals when we've needed it."
Hejduk got a lot of help from his linemates. Stastny had two goals and three assists and Ryan Smyth had a goal and two assists to give that line 14 points in the highest goal tally in the league so far this season.
Colorado's nine goals were the most in a game since Jan. 4, 2007, when Toronto beat Boston 10-2 and San Jose beat Detroit 9-4.
Hejduk's line accounted for six of the nine goals.
"When you score nine goals, there is a pretty good chance that those guys are going to be involved in a lot of them," Blues coach Andy Murray said.
The trio combined for seven points in a critical second period, when Colorado scored five times to blow open the game. Hejduk broke open a 1-1 tie, and after Jay McClement tied the game again on a penalty shot, Stastny, Wojtek Wolski, Brett Clark and Smyth scored in a hurry for the Avalanche.
Stastny's goal broke a 2-all tie with 9:59 left in the period. Wolski and Clark scored 3:10 apart, and Smyth's wraparound goal, his ninth of the season, made it 6-2 with 2:33 left in the frame.
"The three of them had a special night," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said.
The Blues didn't feel so special.
"Nothing went the way we wanted," St. Louis defenceman Chrstian Backman said. "It was just not a good game."
St. Louis goalie Hannu Toivonen faced only eight shots in the first period but was blitzed in the second. He allowed the five goals on 15 shots and was replaced by Marek Schwarz to start the third period. Toivonen returned at 3:05 of the third period after Doug Weight scored his seventh goal 24 seconds into the third, and David Perron scored a minute later to cut Colorado's lead to two goals.
"We didn't give Hannu a lot of help back there, and the game was back in reach, so we wanted to show him that we still believe in him," Murray said.
Colorado called a timeout to try and stop the Blues' comeback.
"You're up by four, you give up two, it's almost like a new hockey game," Quenneville said. "We had to get the momentum back, and we had to play harder."
The timeout worked. The Avalanche chased Toivonen again after Stastny's scored his 13th goal of the season and Hejduk completed his hat trick with 7:44 left.
Toivonen surrendered eight goals on 25 shots.
"This is a really big win for us," said Hejduk, who has 14 points in the last seven games. "It got a little scary at the beginning of the third, but we came back and scored a couple and put the game away."
The Blues took a 1-0 lead in the first period when McClement, who scored two goals, took a cross-ice pass from Stempniak and put it over Jose Theodore's shoulder from the right circle. The Avalanche tied it when Smyth stole the puck in the Blues' zone and fed Hejduk.
Notes: The Avalanche's five goals in the second period were a season-high for one period. ... Colorado LW Andrew Brunette played in his 400th consecutive game, the third-longest active streak in the league. ... Blues RW Lee Stempniak extended his points streak to five games with an assist in the first period. ... Hejduk extended his points streak to seven games and scored his 100th career power-play goal.
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