After losing eight of its first 11 home games this season, the Avalanche completed an eight-game homestand with four wins in the final five games to climb back to the .500 mark (13-13-1) for the season and gain some much-needed momentum before heading on a three-game swing through western Canada that begins Tuesday in Vancouver.
"I thought our players really showed a lot of character and a lot of resiliency to win the last three here at home against some pretty good opponents," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of the wins against New Jersey, St. Louis and the Red Wings. "Certainly I would call it a successful homestand. This was a nice way to cap it off."
The Avalanche used another big game from Varlamov, who has limited teams to two goals or fewer in six consecutive games, along with strong performances from O'Reilly, rookie Gabriel Landeskog and the special teams.
Landeskog, who had six shots and two assists, set up TJ Galiardi's short-handed goal to break a 2-2 tie at 9:22 of the third period and O'Reilly clinched matters by scoring into an empty net with 33.7 seconds to play.
"It's huge for us," Galiardi said of the win. "They are such a good team over there and we talked before the game that you have to respect them, but not too much. I think we took it to them for the most part. We knew that this homestand was going to be really important for us for the rest of the season."
Both teams lost key players to injuries. Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula suffered a cut leg above his skate in the first period and Avalanche center Paul Stastny sustained a torso injury in the third. The players will be re-examined Monday by their respective team doctors.
"I thought we started good," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought they played harder, played better. They had more people going than we did in the second period. We started to make a couple mistakes; turnovers led to goals."
Galiardi scored what proved to be the winning goal when he ripped a shot past goalie Ty Conklin on a two-on-one rush after the Red Wings turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Landeskog skated down the left wing with Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall patrolling alone, and the rookie fed Galiardi for a shot from the inner edge of the left circle.
"I think two of their guys lost (the puck) in their feet and I poked it away," Galiardi said. "Landy drove wide and he put it right in my wheelhouse. I was able to take care of it from there."
Said Babock: "I thought we had a good push in the third, but unfortunately we turned the puck over right at the end of the power play at the middle of the ice."
Danny Cleary had tied the game 2-2 for the Red Wings at 5:08 when he put a slight deflection on a Henrik Zetterberg blast. Zetterberg found a small opening and beat Varlamov with a backhanded shot while cruising down the right side.
The Avalanche took a 2-1 lead into the third period after getting goals from O'Reilly and Stastny 1:45 apart early in the second. Colorado outshot the Red Wings 19-4 in the period.
O'Reilly tied the game 1-1 at the 26-second mark after Landeskog forced defenseman Ian White into a turnover. Landeskog passed to O'Reilly for a shot inside the near post from the lower left circle.
"I was on my forecheck and came around the net and the puck kind of popped out to me," Landeskog said. "I saw Ryan and I heard him shouting back door and I set him up for that one and he made a nice shot."
O'Reilly has collected four goals and three assists during a three-game point-scoring streak and leads the Avalanche in scoring with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists).
"I don't think I've ever had this many points in a row," O'Reilly said. "It's all because of my linemates. They're making me look good. It's a lot of fun right now."
Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson took a cross-checking penalty 17 seconds after O'Reilly's goal and the Avalanche broke a 0-11 slump on power plays to take the lead. Stastny converted Matt Duchene's pass into the crease at 2:11.
The Red Wings came within a goal post from tying the game shortly after the Avalanche killed off a high-sticking penalty to Landeskog. Zetterberg was open for a shot at the right point and clanged the puck off the far post at 12:35.
Johan Franzen gave the Red Wings a 1-0 lead at 15:08 of the first period with a power-play goal. Franzen scored from the left circle off a pass from Pavel Datsyuk with Avalanche defenseman Kyle Quincey in the box for cross-checking.
Varlamov stopped Chris Conner on a short-handed breakaway at 6:40 after Conner stole the puck from Colorado rookie Stefan Elliott.
"I don't think we played very well," Cleary said. "We didn't seem to have our legs. We certainly didn't play how we have been playing the last seven games."
1 - 0 DET
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 COL
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 COL
4 - 2 COL