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Martinsen Makes His Mark

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Andreas Martinsen roared back into the Colorado Avalanche lineup in a big way.

After being absent for the past seven games as a healthy scratch or in the American Hockey League, the Norwegian forward was re-inserted into Avs' game roster Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks, and he certainly made his mark.

He recorded four hits in 11:05 of ice time, but his biggest contribution came in the second period when he registered an insurance goal for Colorado. Martinsen's tally gave the Avalanche some breathing room with 2:41 left before the intermission, as the Ducks were getting good looks in their search for the equalizer in a 1-0 game.

Shawn Matthias then scored two minutes later, and Colorado held on in the third period to shutout Anaheim 3-0 at Pepsi Center. The Ducks were the hottest team in the league entering the night, as they had recorded at least a point in 12 consecutive games (10-0-2).

"They are a really big team, have a lot of good players," Martinsen said. "I think we proved [tonight] that when we are playing our best, we can beat anyone. So it was a big game for us."

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Martinsen matched up well against the bruising Ducks, and it was a notion that wasn't lost on Colorado head coach Patrick Roy.

"He's been working really hard in the practices, and I thought that was a big team, and I thought that would be a great fit for him," Roy said of putting Martinsen back in the lineup. "He scored a big goal for us."

Martinsen replaced Jack Skille on the fourth line with John Mitchell and Cody McLeod. It was Martinsen's first game since Feb. 20 at Edmonton, while it was Skille's first contest this season as a healthy scratch.

"They didn't tell me much," said Martinsen on if the coaching staff gave him any final orders before puck drop. "Patty told me yesterday after practice. He said, 'You're going to play tomorrow,' and I said, 'OK.'"

The Baerum, Norway, native's third goal of the season (and third of his NHL career) came off a nice give-and-go with Matt Duchene.

Martinsen was the first one on the ice from his line during an on-the-fly change and generated the chance by chipping the puck up to Duchene for a rush the other way. Martinsen then received a return pass from Duchene on a 3-on-1 and lifted a backhand shot past a stretched out John Gibson.

"Try and do a little fake, take it to my backhand and the net was open, so I just had to get it in," he said. "It happened pretty fast so I didn't think much. It was just one of those things that goes automatic. It was a really good feeling to see that puck go in."

It was his first marker since Dec. 12 at Nashville, ending a 30-game goalless drought.

In the three months since he last hit twine, Martinsen has played many different roles with the Avalanche. He has witnessed first hand the ups and downs of the NHL, including having a brief stint in the AHL with the San Antonio Rampage two weeks ago.

"You just have to try to stay ready," Martinsen said. "I'm still up here so it could be worse. I could be other places. Just keep working every day and try and stay positive and be ready when you get the chance."

He took advantage of the opportunity against the Ducks, as he has all year since signing as a free agent in the offseason.

Martinsen began the 2015-16 campaign in San Antonio, but the left wing was soon called up and played in his 45th game with the Avs on Wednesday. He is just the eighth Norwegian-born skater to play in the NHL and the fifth to score in the league.

Competing in the top tier of the sport is still an adjustment for Martinsen, but he's getting the hang of it.

"I've learned a lot," he said. "It's the best league in the world. It goes fast out there. People are big, and people are strong. You have to make quick decisions, and you can't hold onto the puck too much. You're going to turn it over. You always have to be ready every shift."

GNARLY VARLY

Semyon Varlamov was back in the Colorado net for a second straight game, and he picked up his second shutout of the season.

The Russian netminder denied all 37 of Anaheim's shots for his 20th career NHL shutout and his 16th as a member of the Avalanche.

He deflected all the credit to his teammates after the contest.

"I've played up and down, so I'm going to talk about the team today," Varlamov said. "It was an outstanding 60 minutes. It was one of the best games for us this year, for sure."

Varlamov watched from the bench last Thursday versus Florida and Saturday versus Nashville before being put back in the crease on Monday against Arizona, where he also made 37 saves in the 3-1 victory.

"I think it helped Varly to regroup," Roy said of playing backup Calvin Pickard instead of Varlamov for the two-game stretch. "I think it helped Varly to work with Francois [Allaire] and really refocus on his game. Sometimes it's good to step back, and he's been outstanding since."

MAKING HIS MARK

Shawn Matthias is fitting in quite nicely with the Avalanche.

Matthias netted a goal for the second consecutive game and for the third time in seven contests with Colorado since being acquired in a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 21.

"It's a testament to the guys in the locker room," Matthias said. "All three of us new guys, [Eric Gelinas and Mikkel Boedker] as well, we just feel comfortable coming to the rink every day, and that's the guys here. It's a great locker room, a great bunch of guys; the coaching staff has been great. It's been really easy to adjust to being an Avalanche."

He pounded in his eighth tally of the season with just 28.3 seconds remaining in the second period. Carl Soderberg stuck with the play, corralling a bouncing puck at the side of the net before knocking it to the front for Matthias.

"My focus right now is to play the right way, play a big man's game, get to the front of the net, holding onto pucks down low, and helping my linemates," Matthias said. "I'm fortunate to play with two great players. There is so much skill on this team. I'm not here to play a skilled game. I'm here to play a big, strong, power forward type [game]. I'm just trying to get to the front of the net and work hard every night."

He nearly had another goal at 4:16 of the third period, but the officials ruled him offside prior to him scoring on a breakaway.

MO CHANGER

The Ducks had the chance to switch the momentum onto their side early in the second period, but instead it was the Avalanche that got that extra burst of energy.

Colorado killed off three consecutive power plays in the first 5:38 of the middle stanza, including a brief 5-on-3 just 25 seconds into the frame.

The Avs were holding onto a one-goal lead at the time, and Roy said he thought his team fed off the important penalty kills.

"Obviously if they scored, it would have tied the game," Roy said. "It could have made a huge difference. Our guys are very committed, and they deserve a lot of credit for how they have been killing penalties. They are really engaged, and I think we put a lot of pride in trying to kill against a top team like [the Ducks]."

Anaheim entered the contest with the second-best power-play unit in the league, tallying on 23.4 percent of its chances.

"We played outstanding on the PK," Varlamov said. "It's a very dangerous team with lots of skill guys, so it was really important to play a solid game defensively and on the PK."

The Avalanche has now killed off a season-high 22 straight and 34 of its last 35 penalties dating back to Feb. 12 (97.1 percent).

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