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Star-Studded Top Line Shines Against Flyers

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

PHILADELPHIA—When it comes to name recognition, it may not get any bigger for the Colorado Avalanche than its new top line of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon.

It's hard to go wrong with any of the three when it comes to scoring goals.

The trio connected twice in the second period on Tuesday—with Duchene netting both markers—to help the Avs pull away from the Philadelphia Flyers and win 4-0 at Wells Fargo Center.

"We're getting used to each other still," Duchene said of his linemates. "Tonight was a great start. We did a lot of good things. [Head coach Patrick Roy] put us in a good position to succeed tonight. A lot of offensive zone draws makes things easy on us."

Having scored just three goals in their previous two games, the Avs were looking for a jolt of offense and Roy decided to get it by grouping some of his top offensive producers. Tuesday's game was the first full outing that the three players played together after the line was created at the start of the third period of Colorado's last contest against the New York Rangers on Friday.

"They played a really solid game," Roy said of the trio against Philadelphia. "They were dominant every shift that they were [out there]. They had a lot of scoring chances. That was the reason we put them together. I like the speed of the three of them together. I feel it's tough to play against them."

So far in their young careers, the 2009 No. 3-overall draft pick (Duchene), the 2011 No. 2-overall pick (Landeskog) and the 2013 No. 1-overall pick (MacKinnon) have already combined for 261 goals and 649 points.

"That is our job, and we have to produce every game," said Duchene, who also assisted on Cody McLeod's power-play marker in the third period. "When we don't, we have to be mad about it and come back even harder the next night. That's a good start, but we're not satisfied."

Colorado led 1-0 after Jarome Iginla scored in the first minute of the opening period, and the club repeated that sequence in the second with Duchene tallying 25 seconds into the middle frame.

After Landeskog dropped the puck off for the MacKinnon in the left corner, MacKinnon powered his way around the net and got off a wraparound shot on Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth. The puck then bounced straight out to the low slot where Duchene quickly knocked it in.

"He's going to the net right now, and it pays off," Roy said of Duchene. "Obviously Mac made a great play on that wraparound, and he picked up the rebound. But if you're around the net, good things happen. It's what Dutchy does. He seems to play with more confidence."

Duchene tallied his second less than four minutes later. After doing a great job of holding the puck in the Philadelphia zone at the blue line, Nick Holden fired a slap shot that caromed off Neuvirth and right to Duchene in front for another knock-in marker.

After registering just one goal in his first 11 games, Duchene now has five in his last four contests, including two multi-goal performances. He also scored twice on Nov. 3 against Calgary, which was his first two-score game since Feb. 8, 2014 at the New York Islanders.

"Yeah, I guess so," Duchene said on if he is now out of his early-season funk. "The pucks were bouncing my way tonight, and as a team too."

While the line consists of two natural centers in Duchene and MacKinnon, the duo doesn't seem to mind sharing the duties.

MacKinnon is technically the primary center on the line, but he and Duchene switch positions regularly on the fly. Both players take faceoffs, and whoever is the first one back in the Avs zone takes over the center's defensive responsibilities.

Having two players share the work on the ice isn't anything new for Colorado, as Roy had Duchene and center Carl Soderberg play together in a few games last week. He created the current group because of their ability to play a lot of minutes.

"One thing I like about it is it gives me the flexibility to play them a lot," Roy said after Tuesday's morning skate. "They're young, they have good legs, and I'm sure they are capable of eating a lot of minutes. Actually last game we played back to back against Arizona, I used the three of them for an average of 22, 23 minutes. Just showing that those guys are capable of taking those minutes and play hard."

All three are 24 years old or younger and have been picking up the points as of late as well

MacKinnon (20 years old) has a team-high 16 points while Landeskog (22) is tied for second with 12. Duchene (24) has nine points this year, but seven have come in the month of November.

A BERRA-GOOD SHUTOUT

Reto Berra is starting to make shutouts a habit.

For the third time in his last six starts, the Colorado netminder didn't allow a puck to get past him as he made 25 saves in the Avs' win in Philadelphia.

"It was a great team effort. It was a great road game," Berra said afterward. "We played simple. We played really well in front of the nets, offensive and defensive. Most of the shots were from the outside or I had a good view for the shot."

While Berra's record is only 2-3-0 on the year, he improved his other statistics to an impressive 1.50 goals-against average and .952 save percentage.

"Right now we are very lucky to have two very good goaltenders," Roy said of Berra and Semyon Varlamov. "They both have our confidence. Right now Reto is playing well. He's probably the one that is going to play the next game in Boston."

Berra was the busiest in the third period as the Flyers attempted to find the back of the net and ruin the shutout bid. That didn't happen as the Swiss goalie denied all 11 pucks that came his way in the stanza.

"When it was time, Reto made some great saves." Roy noted

IGGY KEEPS CLIMBING

Jarome Iginla has scored a fair amount of highlight-reel goals. His tally on Tuesday was not one of them, but an important score nonetheless.

Iginla's seventh goal of the season came 57 seconds into the first period to give the Avalanche an early lead over the Flyers and set the tone for the rest of the night for the visitors.

The tally was just the case of putting the puck on net. After the puck caromed off the end wall, Iginla whacked at it, but instead of hitting it cleanly, he made contact with the heel of his stick. Still, the puck somehow fluttered toward Philadelphia goalie Michal Neuvirth and found a small opening to the back of the cage.

"We obviously got a great bounce on my first goal. It's a very lucky break, but after that we played a good first period," Iginla said. "We had them chase us a bit, we had some good shots, outshot them 2-to-1 in the first…It was a good road period for us."

It was Iginla's 596th career redlighter, putting him just four tallies away from becoming the 19th player in NHL history to reach the 600-goal mark. He also now has 1,238 points, just one goal or assist behind Peter Stastny for 37th place on the NHL's all-time scoring list.

MARTINSEN MAKES NHL DEBUT

After making it to the top of the some of the best leagues in Europe, Avs forward Andreas Martinsen added the top North American one to his list on Tuesday as he made his NHL debut in Philadelphia.

"It was so fun," Martinsen said after the game. "I tried to let it soak in there before the game started. During the national anthem I was smiling, but as soon as the puck dropped and the game started you get in that game mode and don't really think too much."

Martinsen began the year with the Avalanche's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio before being called up on Sunday. A player with good size at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and strong-skating ability, the Bærum, Norway, native had a goal and an assist in nine AHL games this season.

The left wing finished his debut with two shots and seven hits in 10:21 of ice time while playing on the club's fourth line with center Ben Street and right wing Jack Skille. He also got on the game sheet, receiving a roughing penalty at 2:45 of the third period.

"I felt he had a good game," Roy said of Martinsen. "He was physical. Made some good decisions with the puck. I thought he was really good."

The 25-year-old had played pro hockey in his native Norway, Sweden and most recently Germany, where he registered 41 points (18 goals and 23 assists) in 50 games with Dusseldorfer last season.

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