Dustin Byfuglien assured a happy homecoming for his coach when his second goal gave the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night.
The Blackhawks snapped a four-game road winless streak and handed the Avs their first loss in five games at home. Chicago (14-6-7) hadn't won away from the United Center since Nov. 22 at Toronto, but the Blackhawks are 4-0-1 in their last five.
Quenneville, jettisoned in the offseason after leading the Avs to a .579 winning percentage over the last three seasons, is 13-4-6 since taking over as Chicago's coach in mid-October.
"It's always good to be back here. I love it here," said Quenneville, who also was an assistant on Colorado's 1996 Stanley Cup championship team. "It was unfortunate the way it ended ... We like Chicago now and we're getting settled. But certainly, it's always good to be back here."
Andrew Ladd, who bounced back from a cut above his left eye to score the third-period goal that sparked the comeback, said the players recognized it was a special night for Quenneville.
"We know how much it meant to him. Any time you're playing an old team, there's a little more motivation to get a win," Ladd said. "We definitely wanted to get the win for him."
Ladd's goal between Peter Budaj's legs tied it at 3 midway through the final period and, 4 minutes later, Martin Havlat picked up the puck along the boards as a power play ended and sent a pass to the front of the net, where Byfuglien redirected it past Budaj with 6:09 left.
"It was nice to finally get on the sheet like that," said Byfuglien, who had scored just three goals coming in.
Byfuglien also had the only goal of the second period, his breakaway shot sneaking under the right arm of Budaj to tie it at 2.
"It seems the pucks were going through me," Budaj said.
"They weren't pretty goals, but they were hardworking goals," Byfuglien said.
Colorado's Wojtek Wolski broke a 2-2 tie early in the third period when he took the pass as he was coming out of his zone, split defensemen Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell with a burst of speed and slapped the puck past Nikolai Khabibulin in what had all the appearances of a shootout goal.
The Avalanche took a 2-1 lead in the first period after allowing Craig Adams to score 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Rookie Chris Stewart and Ian Laperriere scored for Colorado.
"They took it to us in the first period, we're fortunate we were only down one," Quenneville said.
After that, the Blackhawks had a heart-to-heart in the locker room.
"We thought that they weren't a very good team over there. Which, I mean, they're a good team, but we knew we were better," Byfuglien said.
Quenneville, who replaced Denis Savard on Oct. 16 four games into the season, is now 2-0 against his old team that he led to two postseason appearances. Quenneville and the Blackhawks got the best of the Avs in a 6-2 win over Colorado on Nov. 1 in Chicago.
Laperriere didn't want to think about losing to Quenneville again.
"Joel really liked it here, he has friends here, but I don't see Joel out there. I see the young Chicago Blackhawks," Laperriere said. "I have enough to worry about with them. I think Joel's a nice man and I'm happy he's doing well in Chicago."
Avs coach Tony Granato concurred: "Leading up to it there's a big buildup that he's coming back, but the bottom line is it's the Avalanche vs. the Blackhawks and it's a team that we're chasing and competing for a playoff spot," he said. "That's what it's all about, it's not Quenneville vs. Granato."
Notes: The game was the Avs' first since learning they'll be without captain Joe Sakic until mid-March because of a snow blower accident that left him with three broken fingers on his left hand Tuesday night. ... The Avs activated D Adam Foote off the injured reserve list. He set a franchise record for defensemen with his 182nd assist.