DENVER – After nearly a month-long layoff, Craig Anderson returned to the Colorado Avalanche crease Friday night and looked like he had never left.
Showing no ill-effects from the right knee injury that kept him on the shelf for 10 games, Anderson was sharp while making 25 saves as the Avalanche completed a sweep of its three-game homestand with a 5-1 victory over the New York Rangers at the Pepsi Center.
"I feel good," Anderson said. "I don't want to push it too much right off the bat, but I think I did what I had to do. I was feeling good out there. For me, it was just a matter of getting back to a rhythm and staying with it. I had a good week of practice and put myself through some pretty strenuous exercises this week to make sure that I was ready to go."
Anderson's best save came in a scoreless first period during a Rangers' power play when he had to slide to his right to rob Alex Frolov on a backdoor play off a pass from Derek Stepan.
"Any time you can make a big save for the guys, it gets your spirits up and it gives them a little motivation," Anderson said.
It was the kind of move and stop that proved his knee is just fine.
"They tic-tac-toed it pretty quick there and he was able to go side to side and move laterally very quickly over there to make a big save," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Good for Craig. It's good to have him back."
The Avalanche went 6-3-1 with Peter Budaj in goal after Anderson hurt his knee Oct. 26 during pregame warm-ups in Vancouver. Friday's win gave Colorado a 6-4-0 home record and 23 points overall to tie Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division.
"I talked earlier when we started this homestand about starting to establish a good home record again," Sacco said. ‘We've done that now. We're a couple games above. 500 and that's real important at home."
The Avalanche scored four times in the second period, with center Matt Duchene leading the way with a goal and two assists.
"Matty just dug in there tonight," Sacco said. "There's not a lot of secrets to this game. You work hard and you compete, you win some one-on-ones and usually you'll have some success. I just thought Matty dug in there and he worked hard."
When Duchene whipped a wrist shot from high in the right faceoff circle to beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist low to the far corner for a 3-0 lead at the 12:27 mark, Rangers coach John Tortorella pulled Lundqvist (13 saves) in favor of Martin Biron.
"I felt like everything went their way in the second period and that kind of killed the game," Lundqvist said. "I didn't think we were that bad. We needed a couple more saves to keep us in the game, but we didn't get them."
It was Duchene's first goal in 10 games, since he connected against Roberto Luongo in Vancouver on Oct. 26.
"I haven't shot the puck there enough times this season," said Duchene, who played in his 100th NHL game. "That one had eyes. I got lucky. To get it by the D-man is one thing and then to have it have eyes to go under (Lundqvist's) arm is another."
Biron promptly gave up a goal to rookie Kevin Shattenkirk on the first shot he faced. Using two players as a screen, Shattenkirk scored from the top of the right circle at 15:07.
David Jones opened the scoring 1:04 into the period after Chris Stewart cruised down right wing and took a shot that Lundqvist stopped. Jones popped in the rebound for his fourth goal in five games since returning from a hand injury.
"I didn't know where (the puck) went," Lundqvist said. "I kind of figured it went to my right. Like I said, I just need to be better."
Kevin Porter, who has five goals in seven games since his recall from Lake Erie in the American Hockey League, jammed a loose puck past Lundqvist at 7:21 after Duchene shrugged off Brandon Prust's check and launched a shot on net.
The goal came a little more than three minutes after Duchene lay on the ice following a collision with Michael Sauer and Ruslan Fedotenko, the latter of whom hit Duchene in the face with his stick, though no penalty was called.
"I don't think he meant to do it, but he got me hard in the face," Duchene said. "Any time you get cross-checked in the face, it's going to sting. I thought I split my lip open, so I was worried that I was going to have stitches. It's just pretty swollen on the inside. I was lucky to come back right away. Maybe it knocked some sense into me or something."
Defenseman Scott Hannan added two assists for the Avalanche while logging a team-high 24:20 in ice time. He helped kill off all five of the Rangers' power plays and teamed with Shattenkirk to hold Marian Gaborik in check.
The slick Rangers forward had 19 goals and 15 assists in his previous 39 games against Colorado but on Friday was held to a third-period assist.
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