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Avalanche blank Blue Jackets 4-0

by Rick Sadowski /

DENVER -- A quick start, 33 saves from goalie Semyon Varlamov and a three-point performance from Matt Duchene were more than enough for the Colorado Avalanche to win for the second time in as many games at the Pepsi Center.

Duchene had two goals and set up one by PA Parenteau 51 seconds into the game as the Avalanche blanked the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 on Thursday night.

"Getting up a couple goals, we put them in a hole right away," said Duchene, who had a goal and an assist in the first period and completed the scoring with 1:18 remaining in the third. "We would have liked to have gotten the third (goal) done a little quicker, but we did get it."

John Mitchell produced it at 4:38 of the third period after missing most of the first after being struck in the forehead with the puck. He put a move on Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson in the right circle before scoring against goalie Sergei Bobrovsky for his second goal of the season.

The goal came shortly after Varlamov robbed Ryan Johansen on a shot that came from point-blank range.

"It's just a quick outside, inside move and a shot right away," Mitchell said. "Just tried to surprise the D-man and the goalie at the same time. I was fortunate to have it work out."

Mitchell, who has taken a physical beating in the first three games, also felt fortunate to return to action. He was bleeding profusely after getting hit at 3:38 of the opening period following a faceoff in the right circle.

"It could have been a lot worse if it had been in the teeth or an eyeball," Mitchell said. "The forehead is a pretty thick bone, I guess. The old ears were ringing pretty hard when it happened."

A major component of the Avalanche game plan was to play with plenty of energy from the beginning against a Blue Jackets team that was playing back-to-back games, having dropped a 5-1 decision Wednesday night in Phoenix.

It's exactly what happened. Parenteau delivered a goal on the game's first shot. He scored from the left circle 51 seconds after the opening faceoff off a feed from Duchene for his second goal in two games.

Duchene, with his first goal of the season, gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead at 12:25. Erik Johnson spun around a defender near the right-wing boards and got the puck to Milan Hejduk, whose shot hit teammate Chuck Kobasew in front and bounced into the slot. Duchene pounced on the loose puck and scored into a half-open net.

"We came out, we got a good start," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We started the game on time and I felt that was going to be important for our club. The guys responded well in the first period."

The Blue Jackets have gone 0-2-1 since opening the season with a 3-2 win at Nashville, and they aren't the kind of team capable of pulling off too many come-from-behind victories.

"We have to have better starts," Johansen said. "It's tough to come back from deficits in this league. We've got to be more sharp to start games. We have to have our focus a little stronger and everybody has to be on the same page."

The Avalanche outshot the Blue Jackets 12-3 in the opening 13 minutes, but Columbus gained its skating legs and closed the gap to 14-11 by the end of the period. Varlamov had to make a huge save with his left pad against R.J Umberger at 15:30 to keep his team ahead by two goals..

"Varly came up big for us, he had a great game," Sacco said. "Sometimes when you get up by a couple of goals you have a tendency to try and make things a little easier. We don't want to do that. We want to keep playing hard. But it's a good win for our team."

Varlamov made an even better save against Nick Foligno at 15:36 of the second period after Foligno maneuvered around Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson.

"That moment I almost pulled my groin," Varlamov said after recording his ninth career NHL shutout, his fifth with the Avalanche and first at the Pepsi Center. "That [save] was not easy. (The shutout) is huge for me and it's huge for the team. I've been playing well. It's all about the work."

"We got away from our game a little bit," Duchene said. "We started off well and we finished well, but in the middle section we gave up too many opportunities. There are going to be nights when we're not at our best and we need our goaltender to be, and he was at his best. He was our best player."

The Avalanche killed off six penalties for the second consecutive game and have snuffed out 16 in a row after allowing two power-play goals in the second period in Saturday's 4-2 opening-night loss in Minnesota.

Johnson played a big role in that department Thursday. He spent nearly 3 1/2 minutes killing penalties while logging a team-high 22:32 in ice time and finished with five of the Avalanche's 26 blocked shots.

"The biggest thing for a defenseman is playing with consistency," said Johnson, who was plus-2 and broke up a 2-on-1 Columbus rush with a sliding move in the third period. "That's what I tried to do tonight."

Tempers flared throughout, and the teams combined for 20 penalties totaling 52 minutes, with a couple of fights and seven roughing minors in the mix.

"[The schedule] is jammed in there pretty tightly, so the intensity level picks up like it did tonight.," Sacco said. "I thought we had a great response physically. I would expect a lot of that throughout the course of the season."

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