Matt Duchene set a new career high in goals and Semyon Varlamov returned to form in a fast and furious 3-1 victory at home over the Arizona Coyotes.
Colorado started the scoring in the 1st Period when Francois Beauchemin threw the puck on net through traffic. It then climbed over Arizona goalie Louis Domingue and fell to the weak side of the crease. Shawn Matthias, never far from the scoring area in the offensive zone, saw his opportunity and dove to nudge the puck over the goal line to put the Avs up 1-0 (Video). The goal was his eighth on the season and his second since his trade to Colorado two weeks ago.
Matt Duchene would increase the Avalanche lead in the 2nd Period on a power play. Far from a crisp sequence of clean shots and tight passing, Colorado would struggle to maintain consistent possession of the puck for nearly the entire two minutes. But they caught a break at mid-ice just seconds left in the man-advantage when the Coyotes coughed up the puck to Mikhail Grigorenko. He quickly got the puck up ice to Duchene who executed a perfect give-and-go with Blake Comeau to make it 2-0 (Video). The goal was Duchene's 28th on the season, a new career high.
Grigorenko would get in on the scoring himself during the 3rd. After mad scramble in front of the Coyotes' net, Duchene kicked the puck back to Grigorenko, who was circling around for better position. He then cradled the pass and ripped off as pretty of a backhander as you'll ever see to give Colorado a three-goal lead (Video).
But as well as Semyon Varlamov had played, the shutout would not last. Boyd Gordon, sneaking into the slot past Jarome Iginla, would fire home the rebound of Sergei Plotnikov's wraparound try and draw the game to 3-1 with 11:13 remaining (Video). Fortunately for the Avalanche, that's as far as they would get. Varlamov would shut the door the rest of the way, eventually stopping 37-of-38 shots -- a fine return to form after being pulled for backup Calvin Pickard the previous two games.
The Avs climbed back into a tie with the Minnesota Wild for the final Wild Card spot in the standings. They will play next on Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center against the scorching hot Anaheim Ducks, who have now won eleven straight games.
- The Entire MacKinnon Line - Can't just pick one here because they were all excellent. MacKinnon was flashing unreal speed tonight and created numerous excellent opportunities that just didn't go in. And yet, he was nearly matched stride-for-stride by Mikkel Boedker playing against his former team -- one of these two deserved a goal tonight. Blake Comeau continues to be a solid compliment on whichever line he plays. His passing ability it really underrated. Plus-11, 10, 10 CF 5v5 for these guys tonight.
- Matt Duchene - Watching Duchene put pucks in the net is as much fun as you can have watching hockey. He set a new career high with 28 on the year, and we can only hope he has another 5-6 more. The Avs are going to need them to make the playoffs.
Semyon Varlamov - Nights like tonight are the kind of performance we've grown accustomed to from Varlamov. There aren't many goalies in the league that can just shut a team down with his athleticism. When the Avs' netminder is on, he's one of 'em. Like Duchene's scoring, Colorado will need more of this kind of performance to climb past Minnesota.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson's Injury - As hockey fans, we love watching the best players in the league, even if they're wearing the wrong uniform. OEL is hands-down one of the most talented and exciting young defensemen in the game and it was tough to watch him skate off the ice holding his should like that. Fair warning for next time: Duchene is made of space-age alloys. Don't mess with him.
- Concussions - Speaking of injuries, we learned before the game rookie Avs defenseman Chris Bigras was scratched with a concussion. These are always concerning because the timetables for return are never certain. Hopefully it's minor and Bigras gets all the time he needs to fully recover. We're about to find out why Eric Gelinas' acquisition was so important for the stretch run.
Roy's Deployment of the 4th Line - Mitchell, McLeod, and Skille had a bit of a tough time again tonight and I believe much of that lately is explained by Roy sending them out as a "defensive" line against other teams' top units. Yeah, that frees up your Duchenes and MacKinnons for more offensive roles against lesser lines, but this is playing with fire. These guys are most effective when playing a true 4th line role.