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Duchene's Signature Move Helps Avs Dim Stars

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

The goal was exactly how Matt Duchene planned it. The celebration afterward, not quite.

After scoring 12 seconds into the third period to cap off a four-goal run by the Colorado Avalanche, Duchene turned and did his traditional fist pump into the air before attempting to celebrate with his teammates. Instead, they had come to him after he tripped over himself at the blue line.

"I celebrated and then I went to pivot and go to my teammates, and when I pivoted I caught my heal and took a digger," said Duchene, who was able to laugh about the fall. "When you haven't scored in so long, you're a little rusty on your celebrations as well I guess."

The tally broke a 12-game drought for Duchene, and it ended up being the game-winner in the Avs' 4-3 comeback victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday afternoon at Pepsi Center.

Duchene's goal, plus those from Erik Johnson, John Mitchell and Nathan MacKinnon in the game, might be signifying a turn in Colorado's offense. After three games of three or fewer goals, the Avs have now scored at least four in back-to-back contests—with their core contributing at key moments.

"Our top guys are playing good hockey," said Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy. "Right now we are a team that plays with a lot of confidence."

Duchene's goal was one of his signature moves, where he goes one way, then quickly curls back to get open space before firing a quick shot. However this time, he took the puck into the zone from the right wall and went around the net before making the move at the left circle and shooting it into the top right corner of the cage.

"It's all about circumstance," Duchene said. "That one I was coming with a bit more speed than I usually do. If I just pick it up behind the net and cut a guy off, I don't have as much of a step on them. There, I was able to manipulate him a little more. It's a move that I picked up from Peter Forsberg so many years ago. I've scored a few goals that way, and it's nice to break the slump that way."

After the game, Duchene appeared relieved that he finally found twine for the first time since Dec. 11 against Winnipeg.

"Obviously it had been a little while. I don't even know how long it was. I wasn't really paying attention," Duchene said. "I went one goal in 24 games last year; I don't know if it will ever get worse than that. I just tried not to think about it too much, kept my confidence in practice. I liked the way I have been shooting the puck. I knew it was going to come. I hit three or four crossbars recently, so it's nice to see that one go in."

JOHNSON ALL-STAR PERFORMANCE

Named to the NHL All-Star Game after the Avalanche's win, defenseman Erik Johnson had one of those key moments Saturday against Dallas that typified why he made the roster.

With Colorado down 2-0 in the middle of the second period, Johnson helped get the Avs back in the contest when his backhand shot beat Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen from the right circle.

It was Johnson's 12th goal of the season and began a four-goal run for the home team.

Roy said Johnson deserved the All-Star roster spot, not only his offensive play, but for his defensive prowess as well.

"He's having a challenge every night, playing against top lines, and I think he has been doing a super job," Roy said. "Offensively he's been scoring goals, but I think it's both (offense and defense)."

PICKARD TO BE RECALLED

After the game, Roy said that the team was going to send backup goalie Reto Berra to the American Hockey League for a conditioning assignment and will soon recall Calvin Pickard. Berra will return to Denver after the assignment.

"He's been working hard in the practice, but we think he needs to play some games," Roy said of Berra. "He's going to go the minors, play five games in two weeks, and we'll call him up after that."

Roy has said previously that starting goalie Semyon Varlamov will likely only play three of the five games on the Avs' upcoming road trip, meaning Berra or Pickard would see some playing time.

Roy said Pickard will play at Carolina on Tuesday, the second half of a back-to-back that begins in Washington the night before.

MOVING ON UP

The Avalanche's win didn't just move its winning streak to three games, it also helped the team jump the visiting Stars in the standings.

As of postgame, Colorado sits one point ahead of Dallas in the standings with 44 points and fifth in the Central Division. The Avs are three points behind the Winnipeg Jets and the Los Angeles Kings, who are tied for the Western Conference wild card spots (47 points).

Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said the team has broken the second half of the season into segments.

"Without trying to stare at the standings, we're trying to break it down a few games at a time and try to focus on a set goal that we have for the end season and for the last 41 games here," he said. "We're taking it a few games at a time and trying to make the most of it. We're on a bit of a roll here, and we want to keep this thing going and keep winning."

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