It didn’t take long for doubt to set in during last night’s Colorado Avalanche game, as the squad gave up a goal to the St. Louis Blues just eight seconds after the opening puck drop. It seemed like it was going to be one of those nights, but the Avs ended up pulling out a big 5-3 win heading into another key game tonight against the Calgary Flames at the Pepsi Center.

Last night was rough, though, as Mile High Hockey points out: “For a second game in a row, the Avalanche got a win they didn’t really deserve.” It didn’t help that Avs backup goalie Peter Budaj hadn’t played in about two months.

“I know [Budaj] hasn’t played in a while and knows the situation,” Avs coach Joe Sacco tells The Denver Post. “For him to come in and give us that kind of performance says a lot about the character that he has.”

And there has been nothing mediocre about Paul Statsny’s performance since his return from the Olympic games, which includes an impressive five goals and 10 assists (via ESPN).

The standings at reflect the importance of last night’s game, with Colorado now just three points behind the Vancouver Canucks in the Northwest Division race and a relatively comfortable fifth in the Western Conference playoff picture. A win in regulation tonight against the Flames will go a long way in helping solidify the fourth or fifth spot in the Western Conference and get the unlikely Avs into the playoffs.

A lot of that has to do with the play of rookie Matt Duchene, selected third overall in the NHL draft by Colorado last year. Duchene started his career slowly but now leads all rookies in points (49) and goals (23). The Denver Post thinks Duchene has a real shot at rookie of the year, and he represents a start to filling the void left by retired star Joe Sakic.