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Islanders Tumble In Denver

Despite losing another defenseman, the Colorado Avalanche continued their strong defensive play.

The Avalanche beat the New York Islanders 5-2 Tuesday night, but lost Alexei Gusarov with a broken finger on his left hand.

Gusarov left the game midway through the first period, the sixth Colorado defensemen sidelined by an injury this year. But his absence didn't hurt the Avalanche because Aaron Miller and recently acquired Cam Russell each played 30 minutes.

"A year ago I wouldn't have bet on getting this much time," Miller said. "We were so deep on defense. I haven't seen anything like this."

Colorado has allowed only 15 goals in its last eight games after giving up 30 goals in its first nine contests. And the defensive improvement is reflected in the team's record. The Avalanche are 5-2-1 in their last eight games after going 2-6-1 in their first nine.

"Adding guys like Russell and Greg de Vries has made a big difference in our team," said goalie Patrick Roy, who stopped 20 shots as Colorado beat the Islanders for the eighth straight time. "They came in and replaced a couple of very good defensemen and have done a good job for us."

Valeri Kamensky had a goal and three assists, and Joe Sakic had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche.

Sakic, who has two goals and seven assists in his last three games, broke a 2-2 tie late in the third period. Peter Forsberg, the NHL's leading scorer, got his sixth goal and added an assist as the Avalanche won their third straight.

"The Sakic goal gave them the momentum," New York coach Mike Milbury said. "We worked hard for the goal to tie it and gave the lead back too easy."

Mariusz Czerkawski had both goals for New York, which went 1-for-8 on the power play. Tommy Salo, who is 0-4-0 against the Avalanche, made 23 saves.

Colorado took a 1-0 lead at 6:33 of the first period when Forsberg won a draw from Claude Lapointe, got the puck from Kamensky and sent a wrist shot over Salo's left shoulder.

Salo turned aside several chances as the Islanders killed a five-on-three disadvantage and the Islanders then capitalized on a defensive lapse by de Vries to tie the game 1-1.

Czerkawski sent a shot wide of the net, but de Vries let him skate down the rebound unchecked and sent a shot into an empty net at 16:43.

Kamensky and Sakic scored to offset Czerkawski's second goal of the night in the second period as Colorado took a 3-2 lead. Kamensky beat Salo from just inside the blue line at 10:45 with the Avalanche on the power play.

Colorado had killed 35 straight power plays before Czerkawski's goal at 14:01. The Avalanche regained the lead 25 seconds later when Sakic sent a wrist shot off defenseman Sergei Nemchinov's back and into the net.

"never saw the shot," Salo said. "The puck went off the back of Serge's sweater and there is little a goalie can do about that."

Miller and Claude Lemieux had third-period goals for the Avalanche. Miller's goal was only the second of the year by a Colorado defensemen.

"We are all aware of our situation that no one is going to help us," Colorado coach Bob Hartley said. "No one helped us at the start of the season and nothing has changed now."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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