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Varlamov Impressive in Opener

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Despite a goal by Anaheim with seven seconds remaining, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov had a shutout-like performance against the Ducks.

Varlamov made 35 saves on Wednesday in Colorado's 6-1 victory, with the only puck getting passed him being from Jakob Silfverberg's rebound goal.

While he didn't get the shutout, Varlamov was still impressive backstopping the Avalanche to its first six-goal Opening Night win in team history.

"It was a tough game for us, but I think this team played well this game," Varlamov said. "We did everything great today and that's why we won."

After the game, Avs head coach Patrick Roy praised his goalie for keeping Colorado in the game and Anaheim off the scoreboard early.

"He was outstanding. I think he was the reason why, in the first five minutes, I think he kept us in the game," Roy said. "He made some great saves. They made some great plays."

Two of Varlamov's better stops came in the second period.

Varlamov stopped a slap shot by Sami Vatanen from close range at 1:03 of the period and then denied Corey Perry's turnaround wrister from the slot with 8:36 left in the frame.

"It’s a good team (Anaheim), it's a team that plays very well defensively, they are tough to play one-on-one and Varly was outstanding in every moment of that game where we made some mistakes," Roy said. "He was there for us. No doubt in my mind, he was the first star of our team tonight."

The opening night start for Varlamov was his third straight since joining the Avalanche in the summer of 2011. He and Roy are the only Colorado goalies to ever start three or more season openers.

With the first game out of the way, Varlamov and rest of the team turns their attention to preparing for Friday's game versus Nashville—which begins Thursday morning at practice.

"Today was a good game, but we have 81 games left," Varlamov said. "Tomorrow when we wake up in the morning we have to forget about this game and just look forward because Nashville is coming. Nashville is a really good team too, and it's going to be hard for us."

Solid First Game For MacKinnon

After a quiet first period, rookie Nathan MacKinnon made his presence known in the second period.

After just missing on a backhand shot from the right circle and on a deflection in front, MacKinnon got in a pushing and shoving match in front of the net with Anaheim defenseman Ben Lovejoy midway through the second period.

"It wasn't a fight. It was almost a fight," MacKinnon said of the incident. "It kind of just happened of the scrum and I guess it was just part of the game."

Both players received matching roughing penalties, but as Colorado's 2013 first-round selection headed toward the penalty box, he was greeted with cheers from fans that liked his intensity.

MacKinnon helped make the crowd erupt again with 2:40 left in the stanza as he fed Jamie McGinn with a backhand pass from the behind the bench. McGinn scored with a wrist shot to give Colorado a 4-0 lead and give MacKinnon his first NHL point.

The duo hooked up again in the third period as MacKinnon made a similar play from behind the net to McGinn for the winger's second tally of the game.

Gordie Howe Hat Trick

The last time Steve Downie was on the Pepsi Center ice in a regular-season game, he was hobbling back to the bench with a torn ACL after he got injured along the wall but stayed in the play to provide additional defense against the Los Angeles Kings.

On Wednesday against the Ducks, Downie made the most of his return to the ice.

The right-winger had a goal, an assist and a fight versus Anaheim, marking his first NHL 'Gordie Howe' Hat Trick. It was the first such 'hat trick' for Colorado since Jamie McGinn accomplished the feat on Mar. 6, 2012 against Minnesota.

Downie began the 'hat trick' with a goal at 8:38 of the second period as he scored off a rebound in front of the net, making it a 2-0 game. He then assisted on Matt Duchene's tally midway through the third period, extending Colorado's lead to 6-0, before capping off the game with a fight with 1:07 to play against Ryan Getzlaf.

Strong Return By Tanguay

Even during pregame warm-up, every time Alex Tanguay was shown on the Pepsi Center video scoreboard, the arena erupted in applause to welcome him back to Denver.

Tanguay, who was acquired in a summer trade with Calgary, did his part to please the crowd as he had three assists in the Avalanche's win.

He picked up assists on Steve Downie's, Jamie McGinn's first and Matt Duchene's goals during the game.

Tanguay, who had previously played for Colorado from 1999-2006, ranks ninth all-time in franchise history with 403 points and takes sole possession of the eighth spot in franchise history with 266 assists.

It was the left wing's first three-point performance since March 9, 2013 when he had four points versus Winnipeg (one goal and three assists).

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