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Pair Of Firsts Propel Avs To Victory

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche
Erik Johnson’s blast from the right point in the second period could not have come at a better time.

With the Capitals gaining momentum after Alexander Semin tied the contest at 1-1 with 6:51 remaining in the middle stanza, Johnson’s shot 54 seconds later found its way through traffic and past Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
The Avalanche then played stellar defense in the third period and won a critical faceoff with 13.7 seconds remaining on a Washington 6-on-4 man advantage to hold on for the 2-1 victory on Saturday night at Pepsi Center.
After giving up a two-goal lead in the third on Thursday in San Jose, Colorado didn’t let another lead get away from them in the final stanza, picking up their fifth straight win at home which brought their record back to .500 (9-9-0) in their own barn.
“It was big,” Johnson said of the team being able to bounce back after the disappointing loss two days earlier. “We had a two-goal lead going into the third period and usually when you have that, things come out your way. Unfortunately for us it didn’t. We learned from it and we played with a lead all of this third period and we came away with the ‘W’.”
Johnson finished the game with two-points – adding an assist on Cody McLeod’s goal in the first – marking his third multi-point effort of the season.
His goal was his first of the season. Johnson last scored on Mar. 16, 2011 at Vancouver.
“It felt good. I haven’t really been in a drought like this since I have been in the league,” Johnson said. “It definitely feels good to get back on the board and help the team win.”
Johnson also extended his point streak to three games after picking up assists in the previous two contests. The defenseman’s streak matches his longest since joining the Avalanche, as he also had points in three straight games earlier this season from Oct. 13-17.
Saturday’s contest with Washington was the start of a four-game homestand which includes games against Philadelphia on Monday, St. Louis on Wednesday and Tampa Bay on Friday. Colorado will play five or their next six games at Pepsi Center.

McLeod’s No. 1 A Weird One

Cody McLeod made the most of his 3:57 of ice time against the Capitals.
The Colorado left wing’s stat line included one-goal, one-hit, two-blocked shots and a pretty intense fight with friend and former teammate Matt Hendricks.
“When you get hit in the face a couple of times, you get mad and you just start swinging back,” McLeod said of his fight. “Part of the job, try and get some energy back in the building and I thought we picked up our game afterwards.”
McLeod had already brought energy to the building after he scored 2:49 into the opening period.
Coming up the left side, McLeod whacked at the puck at the left point and his shot took a weird bounce up into the air and flew over Neuvirth’s left shoulder to give Colorado the 1-0 advantage.
“I just tried to get it on net and I don’t think [the goalie] saw it,” McLeod said. “It went between the defenseman’s legs and it went in. I’ll take it.”
It was his first goal of the season. His last came on March 17, 2011 at Calgary.
Giguere Solid Once Again
Saturday’s matchup was supposed to be a rematch between goaltender Semyon Varlamov and his old club. Instead, Varly’s role was spectator on the bench as he was nursing a minor back injury.
In came Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and the veteran goalie shined.
Giguere made 25 saves and picked up his fifth win of the season.
It was the third time this year that Giguere allowed one goal or less in a starting effort.
“Obviously I haven’t played that many games so you can’t look too much into the stats,” Giguere said of his play so far in 2011-12. “My goal this year is too give the team a chance [to win] every time I play. Give Varly a rest and hopefully I can do that consistently.”
Giguere had lost his previous two starts.
East Can Be Beat
The Avalanche improved its record to 7-1-0 against Eastern Conference teams this season, 3-0 at home and 4-1 on the road.
Colorado’s .875 winning percentage is the second-best record against the Eastern Conference behind only St. Louis (7-0-1, .938).
They are 4-0-0 against the Northeast Division and 2-1-0 against the Atlantic Division. The matchup with the Capitals was the Avs first against a Southeast Division opponent this season.
More Notes
The Avs won their fifth straight home game, the club's longest home winning streak since Feb. 2-12, 2010 (also five).
Shane O’Brien picked up his eighth assist of the season, one more than he had all of last year, and his most in a single season since 2008-09 (10)…O’Brien’s nine points this year have matched his total from all of last season.
Gabriel Landeskog tied his career high with seven shots (also Oct. 26 at Calgary).
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