Hard-luck Bruins lose another heartbreaker

Rob DiMaio, lying face down on the ice near the endboards, told the whole story - like the rest of the crowd at the FleetCenter, he was stunned.

Milan Hejduk had just scored the winning goal for the Colorado Avalanche, at 18:08 of the third period, turning a sterling performance by the Bruins into a 3-2 defeat. Boston now have managed only one victory in their past 10 NHL games.

But the Bruins appeared to be on the verge of turning things around. They had outplayed one of the hottest teams in the league for more than two periods, and they appeared to be on their way to ending a five-game winless streak.

Jason Allison had broken out of his slump with a pair of goals that gave the Bruins a 2-1 second-period lead, and the defence were playing some of their best hockey against the explosive Avalanche.

But the bottom fell out of a near-perfect performance by the Bruins when Adam Deadmarsh slammed a shot off Byron Dafoe's skate and into the cage, tying the game at 2-2 at 14:57 of the final period.

The Avalanche won it on Hejduk's sixth goal of the season, with less than two minutes left, silencing a crowd of 16,355. It was a nifty goal, created off cross-ice passes from Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic, and it came just after Boston nearly had gone ahead during a scramble in front of the Colorado net.

'We were inches away from winning the hockey game, and then we are in the locker room with a loss,' said dejected Bruin Tim Taylor. 'Yes, we are playing very good hockey, but we lost again, and that hurts the most.' Coach Pat Burns knew his team had given their best, and was encouraged by the way the Bruins played. He said the Bruins had played some of their best hockey in their past three home games.

'We have guys with a lot of character, and as a group we have to stay positive,' he said.

Allison tied the game at 1-1 on a carry-over power-play situation from the first period.

And he was all over the ice, leading the Bruins' final power-play attack of the period. But Patrick Roy stopped a couple of his shots from in close, then turned away attempts by Ray Bourque and Rob DiMaio. However, Roy had no answer for the Bruins' even-strength rush shortly thereafter.

Dmitri Khristich took a pass from Steve Heinze and fired from the top of the slot. Roy went down and stopped the shot, but the puck went to Allison, who wristed in the rebound.

'Jason played a strong game and he skated hard,' Burns said.

Colorado made their first shot of the game count, when defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh battled past Bourque at the blueline before side-stepping Hal Gill to beat Dafoe during a power play at 6:14. It was Colorado's 14th power-play goal in their past 19 games, and the first one the Bruins had given up in 28 penalty kills.

Elsewhere, Jaromir Jagr scored an empty-net goal with one second left after assisting on the other four Pittsburgh goals to lead the Penguins to a 5-3 victory against the visiting Buffalo Sabres.

The Penguins won their fourth in a row and became the first team this season to rally from a third-period deficit against Buffalo Jagr set up goals by Jan Hrdina and Kip Miller in a span of 1:12 of the third period, while Miller and Kevin Hatcher scored the other Penguins goals.

Jason Woolley, Brian Holzinger and Miroslav Satan scored in a three-goal Buffalo third period that made it 3-2.

In other action, Toronto's Bryan Berard and Sergei Berezin scored second-period power-play goals and Curtis Joseph stopped 23 shots as the visiting Maple Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0.

Joseph preserved his 21st career shutout by stopping Rob Zamuner from point-blank range early in the third period. Todd Warriner added a third-period goal at 7:35 as the Leafs moved into first place in the Northwest Division.

In Phoenix, Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 34 shots and shut out Calgary's high-scoring Theo Fleury, enabling the Coyotes to skate to a 2-2 tie with the Flames.

The only mistake by the acrobatic Khabibulin allowed the Flames to tie it on a goal by Jarome Iginla early in the third period. Andrei Nazarov had the other goal for the Flames, who escaped a last-place tie with idle Vancouver in the Northwest Division by picking up a point on the road.