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Avs' Ontario Natives Shine in OT Loss to Leafs

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Coming to Toronto can be a special trip for NHL players.

The city is home to the Original Six franchise Maple Leafs, the Hockey Hall of Fame and is Canada's largest population area, meaning it is close to home for many players around the league. The crowd at Air Canada Centre usually has a good amount of people rooting for the opposing team, as friends and family in the area travel to the Leafs' arena to cheer for the road club.

It was no different for the Avalanche, and the Ontario boys on the team wanted to put on a show for their fans.

Four Avs grew up within three hours of the city, and the three that played Tuesday night picked up points in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs. Matt Duchene (Haliburton) and Ryan O'Reilly (Clinton) each scored their first goals of the season, and Jamie McGinn (Fergus) recorded his second point of the year with an assist. John Mitchell, who is from the Toronto suburb of Oakville, did not play as he's still on injured reserve with migraines.

Though the local Avalanche players weren't able to pick up that extra point, it was still a treat for them to play in front of the people that have meant so much in their lives.

"It's definitely very special. Growing up, friends and family loved the Leafs and to get to play against them here and have so many relatives—my mom is one of 14—they are pretty much all here with their kids," O'Reilly said. "Just got a huge crowd, and it's great to play here and get a chance for them to see me play."

Duchene agrees that having friends and family in the seats watching is special, but he also generally enjoys playing against Maple Leafs because of their run-and-gun style.

"I love coming playing here. I love this rink," Duchene said. "They play a great brand of hockey. It's fun to open up a little bit with them… I have a lot of friends in the stands and looking forward to seeing them after the game. Fun scoring one in front of them too."

Duchene's first tally of the year gave the Avs a 2-1 lead with 3:20 left in the second period, and it was a thing of beauty.

Coming through the slot, Duchene received a pass from Jarome Iginla in the corner and fired a shot across his body, over the shoulder of Leafs netminder James Reimer, off the cross bar and in.

"Iggy and Ginner had a great play there," Duchene said. "[Iginla] Made a great pass to me, and I was just able to get the shot off in the right spot. Sometimes they just find the way in."

Duchene finished with three shots on goal and six total attempts, and he nearly scored another one early in the third period. On a breakaway opportunity, he was forced off the puck by a Toronto player but was able to regain possession and get a shot off, though probably not as clean as he wanted.

O'Reilly's tally tied the game at 1-1 at 13:14 of the first period. From behind the net, O'Reilly passed the puck to a pinching Erik Johnson in front before rolling to the left circle. The puck then slid its way to him, and he scored on a tough-angle backhand shot.

"Key was getting low," O'Reilly said. "Once we got low, had possession, I just looked up trying to make a play and our 'D' did a great job of jumping in. What we have been talking about lately is just getting to the net, and [I] tried to go in front and lucky for me it came to my stick and just tried to get it on net."

O'Reilly and Duchene didn't get a chance for the winning goal in overtime as the Maple Leafs scored on their first shot of the extra session to take a come-from-behind victory. The loss breaks the Avs' four-game winning streak over the Leafs in Toronto, as their last loss at Air Canada Centre was March 20, 2004.

Colorado will have its chance to defend it own home ice in nearly three weeks when the Maple Leafs visit Pepsi Center on Nov. 6.

SOLID GAME FROM IGGY

Forward Jarome Iginla played a big factor in what might have been his best game so far in the early season.

He finished with two assists—his first points with Colorado—in 18:33 of ice time and had two penalties, with one almost becoming a fight.

Iginla

McGinn and Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf were jawing at each other after the play at 6:26 of the second stanza before Iginla entered into the disagreement to defend his teammate. Both Iginla and Phaneuf dropped their gloves to fight, but the former Calgary Flames teammates weren't able to throw any punches as the officials quickly jumped in to break it up.

Both players received matching roughing penalties instead

Iginla once again played right wing on Colorado's top line with Duchene and McGinn, and while it has taken some time for the trio to find chemistry, it is starting to develop.

"We've hit it off pretty quick on and off the ice," said Duchene of playing with Iginla. "It's still coming together on the ice. It's going to be a work in progress because we have never played together before, but it's coming now."

With his two helpers, Iginla now has 1,169 points and is just one point from tying Bobby Hull for 49th place on the NHL's all-time scoring list.

ANOTHER STRONG PK GAME

Colorado's penalty kill units had their toughest test of the season as Toronto entered the game with the second most power-play goals in the league with five.

The Maple Leafs still have five man-advantage tallies on the year as the Avalanche killed off all five power plays, the biggest of which came late when Toronto was buzzing around Colorado's zone while Alex Tanguay was serving a holding penalty at 15:53 of the third period.

Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov had another solid night in the crease, and he was especially sharp when the team was shorthanded. Of his 37 saves, 11 came while Toronto was on a power play.

The Avalanche is now 15 for 16 on penalty kills this season, with the only goal against coming from Boston's Loui Eriksson on Monday after a too many men on the ice infraction. Colorado entered Tuesday's game with the ninth best penalty kill in the league at 90.9 percent.

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