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Secondary Scoring Boosts Avs Over Jets

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

With his empty-net marker in the third period of the Colorado Avalanche’s 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, forward Matt Duchene continued to ink his name in the organization’s record book.

Duchene’s 11th goal of the month not only put the game on ice with just 17 seconds left on the clock, it also set the Avalanche record for the most goals in the month of November as Duchene moved passed Claude Lemieux’s (10) record from 1995.

“It feels good. I think any time you’re able to be among some of the names that have played in this organization is nice,” Duchene said after the victory. “Obviously, it feels good.”

Duchene had already become the first Avs player to score 10 goals in a single month since Marek Svatos and Alex Tanguay both did it in January 2006. The Haliburton, Ontario, native also still has one more game to match Milan Hejduk (12), who was the last Avalanche player to score 11 or more markers in a single month in March 2003.

Duchene has been a key part of Colorado’s success in November, registering 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 13 games. He currently sits second among NHL players, behind only Patrick Kane (23) of the Chicago Blackhawks. Duchene’s 11 goals are a career high for a single month, and his 20 points have also topped his personal best (17), set in March 2014.

In addition to all of the flourishes and hot streaks, Duchene has been playing on Colorado’s top line with Gabriel Landeskog on the left wing and Nathan MacKinnon at center. It’s no wonder that guy with the hot hands is quick to give his linemates credit for his recent accomplishments.

“I’m playing with two amazing hockey players, Gabe and Nate,” he admitted. “They make it easier for me. It’s never easy, but easier. So much credit goes to those guys.”

The empty-netter may have prevented a Winnipeg comeback, but the real story of the game was Colorado’s secondary scoring, which sprung to life for the second time this week to help take down the Jets.

Blake Comeau scored the first goal of the game on a breakaway, picking the puck off an errant stick at center ice before finishing it behind goaltender Michael Hutchinson for an early lead just 6:35 into the night.

Carl Soderberg put away the third marker, helping the Avs to a 3-0 lead in the second period after fancy stick work atop the Winnipeg crease opened enough of a hole for the Swede to slide the puck in.

And Chris Wagner, playing in just his second game at Pepsi Center and sixth with Colorado, fired home a big go-ahead goal to start off the third period and give the Avs a much-needed buffer on the scoreboard.

“It’s taken awhile, a few games, but it’s coming along for sure,” Wagner said of his two-game goal streak. “I told you I wasn’t going to call my shot, and I won’t call the next one either. But [we had] a few good bounces and a big goal at a big time. We held on for the win there.”

“Yes, it was a big goal. They played very well. I was very happy with them,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said of fourth-line duo Wagner and Jack Skille. “Wagner and Skille scored a big goal and played well. Chris’ last two games were really good games for us.”

The battle-back mentality, despite the Avalanche maintaining a lead for the duration of the night, was paramount in finding a way to defeat the Jets in a pivotal divisional matchup at home.

“It’s important. I think that’s why it’s this big. Obviously, we’ve lost some games this year where we’ve had the lead a lot at home,” said Duchene, who compared it to another win earlier in the month. “We did it against Calgary. That was kind of the ice breaker. Then tonight, we never—I don’t think for one second—thought we were going to lose this game. After we got those first two goals and really carried the play for the first period.

“It was a good effort by everyone tonight. [Goaltender Semyon Varlamov] was strong when we needed him, and we got some big games from all our guys.”

It came as no surprise that Winnipeg made a push to get back in the game, but Colorado would have none of it.

“They’re a good team. They’re going to press. We did it to them in Winnipeg,” Duchene said. “That’s the way the league is now. You’re never out of it, really. When a team really decides to play and push and push hard, they take chances, which leaves them vulnerable. But if they’re able to get a couple, the momentum just keeps going. Look at us last game against Ottawa. [The Jets] pushed, and we were able to hold them at bay, thankfully.”

Although it wasn’t a pretty win for the duration, Roy said that the performance is a step in the right direction overall.

“I just feel that it always has to be the hard way for us, but you know what? I like what I’m seeing. I like the resilience of our guys, the compete level tonight,” he said. “This is a good hockey club. Even though [the Jets] played yesterday afternoon, they had plenty of time to rest. They were well-rested for this game and played to win, and we did the same.”

The victory was Roy’s 100th as an NHL coach.


AGOZZINO’S 2015-16 DEBUT

Colorado prospect and San Antonio Rampage leading scorer Andrew Agozzino made his season debut with the Avs on Saturday night, finishing the match with three shot attempts in 9:08 of ice time.

Andrew Agozzino

Agozzino started the evening skating alongside Wagner and Skille, bolstering a strong fourth line, but saw himself spending time on the third pairing with Mikhail Grigorenko and Jarome Iginla by the start of final period.

“I was so happy with Agozzino,” Roy said after the game. “I put him with Grigorenko and Iginla. I thought he played really well. Andrew played really well for his first game this year with us.

“You saw the difference, just possession. He brought some energy. I just want him to continue to play like this.”

Saturday night was Agozzino’s second NHL contest. His league debut was Nov. 22, 2014, in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes. He has 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) after 13 games with the Rampage, which helped him earn a call-up spot on the Avalanche’s roster.

“He deserves a chance. He’s been our best scorer in the minors the past [three] years. Even this year, he’s having a really good start. He deserves a shot, and we’ll give him his chance,” Roy said after morning skate on Saturday.


SPORT YOUR STACHE NIGHT

Saturday was Sport Your Stache Night at Pepsi Center and the evening, a collaboration between the Colorado Avalanche, Floyd’s 99 Barbershop and the Movember Foundation, was aimed at helping raise awareness for men’s health initiatives.

“It’s great. It’s great awareness for Movember and prostate cancer,” defenseman Brandon Gormley said of the event. “Some guys have got pretty questionable ‘staches, but fortunately I can grow one. It’s always a fun time of the year to grow one.

“It’s nice to see even some of the fans jumping in. It’s a lot of fun.”

Proceeds from each ticket sold were donated to the Movember Foundation to support their endeavors, and fans were encouraged to bring a muzzy, real or not, with them to the game.

Those looking to donate to the players partaking in Movember, or to the Avalanche team as a whole, can do so here.

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