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Colorado Closes Out Carolina

Colorado finished its game and road trip on a high note

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

RALEIGH, N.C.--Closing out the end of games has been a struggle for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but Friday night was not one of those instances.

The Avs held off a third-period push by the Carolina Hurricanes and won 2-1 in overtime at PNC Arena to finish their season-long, five-game road trip with a victory.

"It doesn't matter if you're winning 50 games or more or where we're at, the wins feel good," said head coach Jared Bednar. "They should feel good. We talked about the competition part of this game being the best part about it, and we're happy in our room tonight. That's what matters for us."

Winning in extra time has been Colorado's thing this year. The team improved to 6-2 on the season when the game goes beyond 60 minutes, and it picked up its sixth win of the year when entering the third period tied.

Like it did the previous night in Buffalo, the Avalanche had a good start, but the difference was that it was able to sustain that level play. The club outshot the Hurricanes 14-9 in the first period and held a 1-0 lead after Tyson Barrie's goal at 13:48.

The Avs seemed destined to go into the locker room ahead 1-0, but a tough-angle shot by the Canes' Jeff Skinner squeaked through the pads of goalie Calvin Pickard with 49 seconds left and the teams ended up tied after the first period.

"They were coming off the bye week. We jumped on them right away, had a lot of good chances and got a nice goal in the first," Pickard said. "It was too bad that goal went in at the end of the first, but we stuck with it all the way through. It was a pretty even game after that, and it was nice to get the win."

Colorado and Carolina were neck and neck for the next 40 minutes, with the clubs recording 12 and eight shots apiece in both the second and third frames.

The Hurricanes had some good chances in the final period of regulation, but the Avs weathered the storm to keep the score even.

"We're trying not to be a group that comes up with excuses," said defenseman Tyson Barrie. "We've obviously had our struggles this year, and now is not the time to start doing it. We just show up every day, and we know we still got fans watching and fans that really care about our team."

It took almost the entire overtime period, but Mikko Rantanen was finally able to capitalize on a rush up the ice with 37 seconds remaining to give the Avalanche its first road victory since Dec. 23 at Chicago.

The victory seemed like it had been building during the road trip, with the club having been in every contest but unable to get wins as untimely mistakes kept being costly. On Thursday in Buffalo, it was penalties that zapped momentum in a 2-0 loss.

"We weren't real happy with the way we played again [on Thursday]," Bednar said. "I thought tonight's game was our most complete game of the road trip, to be honest with you."

It was a fun night for Colorado, as the team played the way it knows its capable of. The Avs now look to carry that momentum back home on Sunday when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"If we can bring that back to the Pepsi Center and remember how good it feels," Barrie said. "You know, we came in after the first period and we were all having a lot of fun. I think the game, it is a lot of fun when you're playing well. So hopefully that motivates us a little bit."

Friday's victory broke one more tough winless streak. It was the Avs' first in Raleigh since Jan. 12, 2008, ending a six-game drought.

ANOTHER FIRST FOR MIKKO

As Mikko Rantanen continues his rookie season in the NHL, he keeps picking up more firsts.

You can mark an overtime goal off the list, as he finished a Matt Duchene pass during a 2-on-1 in the final minute of the extra frame to give the Avalanche the victory over the Hurricanes.

Duchene knew exactly where to put the puck with the left-handed Rantanen streaking down the right side.

"You got to know who you're with," Duchene said. "I know he likes to one-time pucks from the top of the circle on opportunities like that. I was just able to kind of get the D-man to flip his stick a little bit, maybe freeze the goalie a little bit with a fake and then slide it over. Mikko did a great job getting up, and what a shot by Mikko there."

The goal was his 12th of the season and brings his point total to 27.

BEDNAR RETURNS TO CAROLINAS

Prior to taking the Avalanche head coaching job, Jared Bednar's home base in the offseason was in Charleston, South Carolina. Yes, South Carolina is a different state than North Carolina, but Friday night's game in Raleigh marked the closest the coach would come to Charleston all season.

Bednar spent most of his playing days and the start of his coaching career in the city with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. He played six season and was a coach in some capacity for seven, winning three championships along the way.

At the start of the current campaign, Bednar's wife and daughter stayed in Charleston until around Christmastime when they joined the coach and his son in Denver.

Bednar had some family friends that made the roughly four-hour trek up from the South Carolina coast to watch the game between the Avs and Canes.

LINE CHANGE

Head coach Jared Bednar mixed up his line combinations at the end of Thursday's game in Buffalo, and he went with the new groups against Carolina as well.

Bednar had Matt Duchene center a combo with Blake Comeau and Mikko Rantanen, while Nathan MacKinnon was the pivot with wings Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Nieto. The bottom six had Mikhail Grigorenko and Jarome Iginla on a John Mitchell-centered line, while Joe Colborne, Carl Soderberg and Andreas Martinsen made up the other group.

Duchene's line was particularly efficient as the trio combined for nine of the team's 37 shots in the game.

"Our line had some great chemistry, and I think we found it last game [in the] second half and carried it on into tonight," Duchene said. "I think we were kind of snakebitten even, not finding one in regulation, but those guys did a lot of good things."

Cody Goloubef was Colorado's lone scratch, as Patrick Wiercioch took his spot in the lineup. Wiercioch had been a healthy scratch for the past three games.

Calvin Pickard started in net for the second consecutive night and the fourth time during the now-completed five-game roadie.

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