DENVER – One-goal games have become the norm for the Colorado Avalanche, a team which more often than not has come out on the right side of the tight affairs.
Rookie Gabriel Landeskog scored in the final period and goalie Semyon Varlamov made 15 of his 25 saves over the same frame, as the Avalanche hung on for a 3-2 win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center.
Six of the Avalanche's past seven wins have been by one goal and the team has gone 14-5-1 this season in games decided by a single goal.
"I don't want to say it's a one-goal league, but it's pretty close to a one-goal league," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "More often than not you're going to be in those types of games. That's the way it is right now. It's getting down to the second half of the year and things tighten up pretty quickly. These are hard-fought games, close games."
While the Avalanche won for the ninth time in the past 10 home games and matched a franchise record – set in March 2008 – with eight home wins in a month, there is concern about Matt Duchene, who injured his right knee early in the first period and didn't return.
Duchene, who has been playing left wing on a line with Paul Stastny and Daniel Winnik, hurt his knee on his third shift of the game when it appeared his right skate caught in the ice as he attempted to throw a check.
"He'll be re-evaluated (Friday)," Sacco said. "I just saw it on the video and it looked like he tweaked it."
The Avalanche was fortunate not to lose defenseman Jan Hejda late in the second period when Coyotes forward Raffi Torres caught him in the face with an elbow after Hejda delivered a pass from the side of the net. Hejda was shaken and had to leave the game, but he returned in the third period and played a team-high 23:09.
"We were lucky that Jan was able to finish the game," Sacco said. "I thought the referees … obviously they had a tough time tonight. They missed that hit there, but fortunately he was able to come back."
Hejda was a key member of the penalty-killing units that thwarted all five of the Coyotes power plays, including one that began with 4:37 remaining in regulation when TJ Galiardi went off for boarding. Phoenix was held without a shot on that man advantage and managed just two power-play shots in the game.
The Avalanche dominated play for two periods and enjoyed a 27-12 advantage in shots, but needed Landeskog's goal at 9:10 of third period to break a 2-2 tie against goalie Jason LaBarbera, who made 33 saves and kept the Coyotes within striking distance all evening.
Landeskog was just outside the left side of the crease when he slipped the puck between LaBarbera's pads off a pass from Chuck Kobasew, who was able to retrieve his own rebound after outmuscling Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin for the puck.
"We knew we'd have to put a lot of pucks on him," Landeskog said of LaBarbera. "Chuckie did a great job of staying with that puck. He almost scored on the first shot and then he stuck with it behind the net. He fed me and I got some room there and tried to get it low on net. I was able to sneak it in five-hole."
Mikkel Boedker, who came in riding a 12-game goalless streak, had tied the game at 17:39 of the second period with his second goal of the night after an Avalanche turnover. Boedker beat Varlamov with a shot from high in the right circle for his second of the game and seventh of the year.
"It is not so sweet right now after a loss, but I think that is something I have to do more of, shoot the puck and get to the net," Boedker said. "We got some players out with injuries right now and we have some guys that have to step up, including myself."
The Coyotes had a chance to take the lead with 28.2 seconds left in the second period when Oliver Ekman-Larsson was awarded a penalty shot after being pulled down by Winnik while on a breakaway.
But Varlamov, who has stopped 14 of 16 shots while posting a 5-0 record in shootouts this season, held his ground and forced Ekman-Larsson to shoot wide of the left post.
Varlamov, who has won five consecutive home games while allowing a total of 10 goals, made his career-high 26th start of the season. He was beaten on two of 12 shots in the first two periods but was impenetrable in the third when the Coyotes outshot the Avalanche 15-8.
"It is tough to play without facing a lot of shots," Varlamov said. "It is hard to have confidence when you don't have shots. They played very hard in the third and I thought we played pretty well defensively. The guys helped me a lot by clearing away rebounds."
The Avalanche sandwiched goals by Kevin Porter and Stefan Elliott around one by Boedker to grab a 2-1 lead in the first period.
Porter scored at 7:44, shortly after exiting the penalty box to serve an Avalanche too-many-men penalty. He redirected Paul Stastny's pass while driving to the net on a two-on-one rush.
The Coyotes answered at 12:31 when Boedker beat Varlamov with a shot from the right circle for his first, but Elliott restored the Avalanche lead with a shot from the high slot at 15:28.