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Avalanche cruise to win against Blackhawks

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche turn into impressive streak busters when they play the Chicago Blackhawks.

Desperate for a win after being outscored 13-5 during a three-game losing streak and playing without leading scorer Matt Duchene (oblique injury), the Avalanche defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions 5-1 on Tuesday at Pepsi Center.

Last year, the Avalanche snapped the Blackhawks' 24-game streak without a regulation loss to begin the season with a 6-2 win in Denver.

"It means a lot," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "We responded well tonight. We knew they are one of the best teams in the NHL. We talked about playing with confidence, and we have all the reasons in the world to stay confident. Even when [Duchene] got hurt, it's not all about him. Matt is one player, and we knew we had enough depth to play well and to win this game."

The win moved the Avalanche into third place in the Central Division with a 15-5-0 record and 30 points. The Minnesota Wild also have 30 points, but they have 13 wins and have played two more games.

This certainly wasn't how the Blackhawks wanted to begin a seven-game, 13-day road trip after going 8-1-1 in the previous 10 games. They also lost forward Bryan Bickell to what coach Joel Quenneville said is a lower-body injury when he slammed his leg into a goal post early in the first period.

"We'll see more [Wednesday], get a better assessment," Quenneville said. "Could be a bit, maybe more than day-to-day, but I'm not sure of that."

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped 36 shots. He received all the offensive support he would need in the first period, when Paul Stastny, Landeskog and John Mitchell scored for a 3-0 lead, chasing Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford in the process.

"Chicago is very dangerous," said Varlamov, who lost his shutout bid with 7:50 to play when Brandon Saad slipped a rebound between his pads. "They have some dangerous players. We lost three in a row, and of course we were not happy, but we worked a lot in practice in how we were going to play defensively. Every team we play is tough to beat, so you have to be ready every game. You have to be sharp."

PA Parenteau made it 4-0 at 18:38 of the second period. Skating down the left wing on a 2-on-1 rush with Jamie McGinn after taking a lead pass from Stastny, Parenteau moved into the circle and beat relief goalie Antti Raanta, who was making his first NHL appearance.

"That fourth goal was big for us," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "They were buzzing in our zone, and Varly made some key saves for us at key moments. You're always afraid being up 3-0 and having a bit of a letdown, but I thought we didn't have any."

Said Quenneville: "We couldn't buy a goal there. I would have liked to see the momentum change in that second period without the extent of time that we had with nothing to show for it. Then they go down, and it's 4-0, kind of sealed it. But their goalie played well."

Cody McLeod made it 5-0 at 1:44 of the third with his first goal of the season. Defenseman Tyson Barrie took a shot from the right point, the rebound dropped into the crease and McLeod tapped it in.

Barrie had two assists in his first game since being recalled Sunday from the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League.

"I'm happy with the way I played," said Barrie, who had three shots in 18:45 of ice time and was plus-2. "I tried to be really good defensively and try to jump in the play. It was a good start for me. Hopefully, I can keep that going."

Stastny opened the scoring at 6:37 of the first after Crawford cleared the puck to defenseman Brent Seabrook along the left-wing boards. When Seabrook shot the puck off the end boards, it caromed up the slot to Stastny for a shot by Crawford's stick.

"We have played enough in this rink when you see that bounce, it might bounce off the post when it comes out to the middle or left," Stastny said. "I was just kind of anticipating it a little bit. You just try to take your time because you have so much time in the slot, and I just kind of surprised him since he's not set. The majority of the time, if you have a good shot, it's going to go in.

"We had a good first period and that's what home teams want to do, kind of feed off the crowd. There were a lot of Chicago fans here, so you kind of want to try and keep them quiet."

The goal was Stastny's eighth of the season and 143rd of his NHL career, moving him past Dale Hunter into eighth place in franchise history. Stastny's assist on Parenteau's goal gave him 415 points and moved him past Valeri Kamensky into sole possession of eighth place on that list.

Landeskog and Mitchell scored 56 seconds apart. Landeskog tipped defenseman Andre Benoit's shot by Crawford's glove at 12:21 and Maxime Talbot came from behind the net to set up Mitchell in front for a point-blank shot under Crawford's left arm at 13:17.

The assist was Talbot's first point in nine games since the Avalanche acquired him Oct. 31 from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Steve Downie.

Crawford, who faced seven shots, was replaced by Raanta following Mitchell's goal. Raanta was recalled Sunday from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.

"It was a tough game right from the start," Seabrook said. "I thought we gave a good push back in the second period. For the whole second period it was a pretty good period and we had some chances there and we just couldn't capitalize."

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