1/23/97 -- 11:38 PM

Avalanche-Penguins,


PITTSBURGH (AP) - The defending champion Colorado Avalanche suddenly are losing leads as often as they lose star players to injuries. What they haven't lost is their ability to win big games.

Valeri Kamensky scored at 3:55 of overtime and the Avalanche ended Pittsburgh's 14-game winning streak, winning 4-3 Thursday night despite losing a three-goal lead and goaltender Patrick Roy to an injury.

Pittsburgh was 12-0-2 since a Dec. 17 loss to Boston. Penguins rookie Patrick Lalime finally lost after going 14-0-2, the best in NHL history for a goaltender at the start of his career.

``I was sorry the streak had to end but I knew it had to end sometime,'' Lalime said. ``We'll just have to start a new streak.''

Even without injured scoring stars Mario Lemieux of Pittsburgh and Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg of Colorado, two of the NHL's top teams played a game with the intensity and drama of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

``We did a great job of fighting through everything,'' Avalanche coach Marc Crawford said. ``We had a three-goal lead and we were disappointed about the lead diminishing, but I thought our guys regrouped at 3-3 and they didn't panic. And (backup goaltender) Craig (Billington) recomposed himself.''

Colorado lost a lead on the road for the second time in three nights - its 12-game unbeaten streak ended Tuesday with a 3-2 loss at Tampa Bay. But the Avalanche overcame Pittsburgh's three-goal rally in the third period and are 10-1-2 in their last 13 games.

``Obviously, the loss in Tampa was tough. We kept telling ourselves, `Don't lose two in a row,' '' said Colorado's Adam Deadmarsh, who had two goals and four points. ``We got the job done but we did it the tough way.''

Kamensky's game-winner was his 17th goal of the season. Deadmarsh, who figured in every Colorado goal, chased down the puck behind the net and moved it out to Sylvain Lefebvre, whose missed shot deflected to Kamensky to the left of the crease.

With NHL scoring leader Lemieux missing only his second game of the season due to back spasms, the Penguins turned to infrequent scorers Joe Mullen and Joe Dziedzic for key goals in their rally.

``Pittsburgh's a very explosive team even without Mario,'' Jones said. ``I've faced them enough in my career to know how quickly they can turn it around. As soon as they get one (goal), they're thinking about two and three.''

Pittsburgh lost an apparent tying goal when Kevin Hatcher's score was waved off at 8:24 because defenseman Jason Woolley's skate was detected in the crease. But Dziedzic eventually tied it at 15:52, putting his own rebound by Colorado backup Craig Billington for only his third goal.

Dziedzic had earlier set up Mullen's 497th career goal - but only his second of the season - at 3:48 of the third, 1:06 after Ron Francis had scored Pittsburgh's first goal.

``That was an awful way to lose a game,'' Penguins coach Eddie Johnston said. ``We should have won the game once we took it over. It's s shame Patrick had to lose, because he played a very sound game again.''

Roy, who has a league-high six shutouts, left with a sprained right thumb

at 13:54 of the first. Teammate Uwe Krupp appeared to skate over Roy's hand as the goaltender covered a loose puck, and Dziedzic also clipped Roy with a skate before play was stopped.

Billington, 6-2-2 as Roy's backup, stopped the first 16 shots he saw before Francis scored his 19th of the season.

Deadmarsh took advantage of a flurry of Penguins giveaways in their own zone, scoring at 10:05 of the first after Kamensky stole defenseman Darius Kasparaitis' clearing pass.

Jones made it 2-0 at 6:55 of the second with Colorado's eighth short-handed goal. Deadmarsh scored Colorado's third special-teams goal of the night at 11:01 of the second.

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