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Avs Fall 1-0 In Goaltending Duel

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov returned to the net for the first time Wednesday following a two-game hiatus when the club was out on the road.

He was obviously hungry to get back to work, pitching a perfect game until the 1:49 mark of overtime. That’s when Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask tucked away an attempt to seal the 1-0 loss for the Avs.

Having turned aside 18 shots in his 61:49 of ice time, Varlamov gave Colorado plenty of breathing room to make something happen. The trouble is, opposing goaltender Cam Ward was having a similarly impressive outing.

“He just made some good plays, made some great saves,” Avalanche alternate captain Jarome Iginla said of Ward’s effort. “I think he got fortunate on a few, but you’ve got to give him credit; he never gave up on pucks. Some nights you run into a hot goalie, but so did they. Varly played great too. That was a goaltenders battle, and from our point of view we feel like we’ve got to get him one goal there, and we didn’t.”

Avs head coach Patrick Roy also liked what he saw from his No. 1 netminder.

“He played really well,” Roy said. “He made some good saves.”

Looking for his 108th win in an Avalanche sweater, Varlamov worked to keep the game even, despite any misconceptions about the low shot total he faced. There were multiple breakaways to be denied, and Varlamov did so with the poise fans have come to expect from the 27-year-old Russian.

“The guys played hard tonight, and goaltending was great on both sides. We had a lot of chances,” Iginla said. “We just couldn’t get one tonight. Great goaltending, and from our point of view, some unfortunate bounces to go with that.”

Colorado was robbed on two different chances to find the back of the net. The first came on a diving paddle save by Ward late in the third period, preventing a devastating tally from center Matt Duchene.

“That’s absolutely painful. I’m probably going to have nightmares about that one,” Duchene said after the game. “Got to give him credit. I made the move and got it upstairs, just in case he was down. He sticks it out and hits it, just nicks it enough to go wide. I feel awful right now.

“We tried to score, but he played great. We had some tough bounces. We had two right in the crease, and he makes that save on me at the end there and many others throughout the game. It’s frustrating.”

Another came on an Iginla breakaway in overtime, the puck slipping under Ward but losing enough momentum to stop in the blue paint, lying just inches from the goal line.

“I had a full breakaway. I got a great pass from Dutch,” Iginla said of the play. “Was trying to get it to go five-hole, trying to sneak it in there, and wasn’t able to do it. Shortly after, they came back and they scored.

“It sucks. You want those opportunities. You kind of dream of those to be in overtime and have a chance to make a difference.”

“Yeah, it sits on the line,” Duchene added. “I guess it wasn't meant to be. I don’t know what to say. I thought we played a solid game. We got a lot of great chances and it’s really frustrating that we weren’t able to win that game.”

All goaltending battles must come to an end, however, and Wednesday’s went Carolina’s way.

“I thought we played a good game. I thought we played a tight game,” Iginla said. “We didn’t get frustrated. We kept trying to keep them to the outside in our zone, keep the shots down. They still had some great chances. You’re going to get great chances once in awhile, and Varly was up to the challenge.”


P.K. FOR DAYS

The Colorado Avalanche penalty-killing units have been out of this world so far in the young 2015-16 NHL season.

Colorado entered the night with the fourth-ranked shutdown squad in the league, having prevented 88.2 percent of all man-advantage scenarios faced. In fact, the Avs had neutralized their opponent’s power play 13 consecutive times, and it was no different Wednesday.

The Avs again were perfect on the penalty kill, stopping all five of Carolina’s chances to improve to 20-for-23 (90.9 percent) on the year.

“Special teams are really important on both sides of it. In a 0-0 game, you’d love your power play to get one, but like I’ve said, their goaltending was really good,” Iginla said. “Both P.K.s were very good tonight. Our P.K. guys are blocking a lot of shots, getting that confidence there. It’s going to be a big part of the season, and that’s definitely a positive.”

According to Roy, shutting down the man-advantage typifies the kind of defense that Colorado is putting forward on a nightly basis.

“I really like the way we played defensively. I think if we play like this, we’re going to win our share of games,” he said. “I thought we didn’t give them much, a few chances here or there, but that’s the type of hockey. The last three games, we gave up a total of what, two goals? Three with tonight in the overtime. But three goals against, this is good defense. The offense will be taken care of. I’m confident that our guys will find the back of the net, but I was pleased with the way we played defensively. There’s no doubt about it.”


GORMLEY’S DEBUT

Brandon Gormley

Defenseman Brandon Gormley made his Avalanche debut against the Hurricanes, and much like he’s done in practice, he managed to stand out to the coaching staff.

“Gormley had a really good game. I was very happy with him. I thought he played really well on defense,” Roy said after the game. “I thought that [Nick] Holden and Gormley played really well. They were really solid.”

Paired with Holden for the night, Gormley logged 17:22 of ice time—good for fourth among Avalanche defenseman—one shot and one blocked shot.

Roy said before the match that he was hoping Gormley would play well.

“I have no expectation, basically. I want him to show what he has and [have] him play a solid game,” Roy said Wednesday morning.

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