DENVER – Call it an early Christmas present for the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs head into the two-day holiday break with an eight-game home winning streak – the longest such single-season streak since the team moved from Quebec for the 1995-96 season – thanks to Friday night's 2-1 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Pepsi Center.
Matt Duchene beat goalie Mathieu Garon with 1:22 remaining in the extra period as the Avalanche completed a sweep of its four-game homestand and moved above the .500 mark (18-17-1) for the first time since Nov. 10.
Duchene skated down left wing and appeared to fool Garon with a quick shot that skimmed between the goaltender's pads.
"It is certainly something that our young team should be very proud of," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said of the streak. "It's quite an accomplishment. When you look back at all the different teams that they've had here over the course of the years, there were some pretty good teams here. So it's a significant achievement."
After beginning the season with eight losses in their first 11 home games, the Avs have won eight in a row and nine of 10 at the Pepsi Center. They have outscored opponents 24-14 during the eight-game streak, not counting goals awarded for three shootout wins.
"We knew that we had to be a better home team and certainly we've taken steps in the right direction to do that," Sacco said. "It's a great way to enter the break. You always feel a little bit better those couple days that you have off when you get that win before you head into it."
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 29 saves against the Lightning, was in goal for all four games on the homestand. He turned aside 122 of 128 shots for a .953 save percentage while winning four in a row for the first time since Nov. 24-Dec. 14, 2008.
"I am just taking it one game at a time and trying to give the team a chance and try to leave a good impression so the coach wants to put me back in," said Giguere, who started his streak with a 2-1 win against Washington on Dec. 17 when Semyon Varlamov didn't play because of a sore back.
"We can go into the break now and enjoy ourselves, relax a little bit and not think about hockey for the next couple days and spend some time with our family and friends," Giguere added. "But it's going to be short."
The Avalanche will fly out of Denver on Monday morning for a game that day in Minnesota. Colorado has gotten untracked at home but is winless in the past nine games (0-8-1) on the road.
"We have to get back on the road and start winning some games," Giguere said. "I don't think we have been good enough there lately."
Duchene made sure the home streak would remain intact with his first goal in five games and the second of his NHL career in overtime.
"I've scored some goals like that before, coming down the wing and trying to fire one quick five-hole," he said. "I think (Garon) thought that I was past the net when I fired it. I just saw him standing there. I don't think it was on the right angle, but I just threw it and it found its way in. A bit of luck there, but just trying to get a puck on net and see what happened and it worked out."
Both teams came close to scoring earlier in the overtime. Giguere made a difficult glove stop against Martin St. Louis, and the Avalanche's Paul Stastny cranked a shot off the right post.
It was a tough loss for Garon, who had 27 saves two nights after permitting five goals on eight shots in the first period Wednesday night in the Lightning's 7-2 loss in San Jose. Tampa Bay lost twice on its three-game trip and has lost seven of the past nine road games.
The Lightning, who have slipped to 14-17-3 for the season, open a three-game homestand Tuesday against Philadelphia.
"It's going to be big," Garon said. "If we want to build momentum, this is the perfect stretch coming up. We have some great teams coming at home and wins there would be huge for us."
The Lightning struck first Friday at 18:09 of the opening period on a goal by defenseman Pavel Kubina. He took a pass from Vinny Lecavalier in the right circle and momentarily fumbled the puck before regaining control and shooting it past Giguere. The goal was Kubina's first since Oct. 22 and his second of the season.
Tampa Bay dominated the period and outshot the Avalanche 14-5.
"We didn't stick to the game plan," said Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who had two shots on goal and lost 14 of 17 faceoffs. "We came out, knew what we had to do, completely dominated the first period and we just didn't keep doing what was working."
The Avalanche tied the game at 10:03 of the second period when Ryan O'Reilly scored 30 seconds after he wheeled into the Lightning end and ripped a shot off the crossbar. The Avs maintained possession with Milan Hejduk feeding Shane O'Brien for a shot that Garon stopped. But O'Reilly had inside position on St. Louis near the right post and poked in the rebound.
"That was a big goal," Sacco said. "Certainly it was a turning point. We started to get some juice off of that, no question."