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Colorado Busts Another Chicago Point Streak

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche is the streak buster of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Three seasons ago during the shortened 2012-13 campaign, the Avs ended the Blackhawks' NHL-record season-opening point streak at 24 games. That 21-0-3 run concluded March 8, 2013 at Pepsi Center in an Avalanche 6-2 victory.

On Tuesday night at United Center, Colorado put a period on Chicago forward Patrick Kane's individual point streak of 26 games with a 3-0 shutout win.

Kane's streak was a Blackhawks-franchise record and the most by an American-born player. The 26-gamer was also the longest by an active player and the longest by any player since Mats Sundin of the Quebec Nordiques posted a 30-game point streak from Oct. 8 to Dec. 10, 1992 (21 goals and 25 assists).

The Buffalo, New York, native was held without a goal or an assist at home for the first time this season. He finished with 16 tallies and 24 helpers during his career-long stretch.

"We have to tip our hat to him," said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog of Kane's remarkable run. "That's an impressive streak, 26 games in this day and age with the salary cap and with how strong every single team is in this league. That's pretty impressive. Tip our hats to him, and I think it was a team effort to shut him down, shut the Blackhawks down. That's not easy to do in this building."

While keeping Kane off the scoresheet is always a key to success for any team facing the Blackhawks, the Avs played an overall solid game versus the defending Stanley Cup champions. Colorado kept a good portion Chicago's shots to the perimeter and only allowed six forwards to get pucks onto goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Kane and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews each had zero shots on goal and four combined attempts.

Offensively, the Avalanche took advantage of its opportunities early on and held a 1-0 lead after the first period and a 2-0 advantage before the middle stanza was two minutes old.

The team was also fairly disciplined and stingy when it was down a man on the ice, only allowing three shots during two penalty-kill situations.

"We know how much skill they have on the power play," Landeskog said. "Our PK was solid, didn't give them much, kept them to the outside. Overall, I think we're doing a good job of making good decisions with the puck, and that's what it came down to tonight. It felt good to get this one."

Colorado scored the first goal in each of the three games of the road trip, with Matt Duchene doing the honors on Tuesday by registering his 16th of the season with 5:30 left in the opening period. Duchene got a cross-ice feed from Landeskog and made a quick move before placing the puck toward the net.

The Avs forward actually scored on accident as he was trying to pass to Nathan MacKinnon at the top of the crease, but the puck deflected off the stick of Marcus Kruger and over the left shoulder of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

"I was trying to pass to Nate backdoor," Duchene said. "He had tap-in if I got it to him. I actually thought he scored. I lost it as soon as it went off my stick… Nice bounce I guess."

Duchene played a big role in Colorado's previous streak-busting victory over Chicago, as he had a four-point contest (a goal and three assists) in the Hawks' first regulation loss in 2012-13.

The Avalanche finished with a sweep through its tough Central Division trip, which also included stops in Nashville and St. Louis. The club is now winners of four of its last five games and improved to 7-2-0 against division opponents.

Tuesday's contest in the Windy City was also the end of a stretch where the Avs played 18 of 25 games on the road, where the team sports an 11-9-0 overall record this season.

"The last couple of weeks have just been a matter of guys really putting things together, and we realize that we got to go," Landeskog said. "We got a good opportunity here on home ice coming into December and January. This road trip was huge."

The Avalanche now looks to take care or business at home. Colorado plays 17 of the next 24 contests at Pepsi Center, beginning on Thursday versus the New York Islanders.

VARLY DOMINANT IN CHICAGO, AGAIN

Semyon Varlamov continues to do what he does against the Blackhawks: have big games.

The Colorado goaltender stopped all 29 shots he faced Tuesday for his 10th win and first shutout of the season.

The Russian's performance was a continuation of his regular success in Chicago as he is now 7-1 with a 1.42 goals-against average and .961 save percentage at the United Center. He is also 8-0 in his last nine appearances (eight starts) against the Blackhawks dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season.

"I think he's been our best player, no doubt. I think we all know that," Landeskog said of Varlamov. "We all knew how good Varly could be and how important he is for this hockey club when he is playing like he is. He stole one for us in St. Louis the other night, and I think tonight he was overall solid. Made the big saves when we needed them, and we managed to get some big goals from Dutchy and Zach (Redmond) as well."

Varlamov made nine saves in the first period, 13 in the second and seven in the third. He made six key stops in the opening stanza before Duchene scored to give the Avs a 1-0 lead.

"Varly was big for us early (in the first period) and then we kind of took control of the game later on, and we were able to get the first one," Duchene said.

Varlamov is now 10-8-1 on the season and has a 2.60 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

He has won five of his last six contests, including all three on the three-game road trip that saw him play in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday in Nashville and St. Louis. He finished with 105 saves on 108 shots against the trio of Central Division foes.

REDMOND RETURNS TO LINEUP, SCORES

Defenseman Zach Redmond returned to the Avalanche lineup Tuesday night and potted his first goal of the season.

After being a healthy scratch for the past six games, Redmond was back on the ice and was paired with Nate Guenin on defense. He gave the Avs a 2-0 lead early in the second period after he was wide open at the right circle and received a cross-ice pass from Blake Comeau. His wrist shot went past Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford's blocker and into the cage at 1:43 of the middle frame.

Redmond was playing in his eighth NHL game of the season and his first since Dec. 1 at New Jersey. He began the year in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage before being recalled on Nov. 12. He had previously recorded two assists with the Avs this year.

Brandon Gormley, who had been in the lineup for the last six contests, was a healthy scratch with Chris Wagner. For Wagner, it was the second straight game that he was out of the lineup since being picked up on waivers from Anaheim on Nov. 15.

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