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Avalanche give up lead late, top Maple Leafs in SO

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- It took a shootout for the Colorado Avalanche to end a three-game losing streak Thursday and overcome some misfortune in the final minute of regulation to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 at Pepsi Center.

Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Alex Tanguay scored against goalie Jonathan Bernier in the tiebreaker to give the Avalanche their first win after regulation in six attempts.

Avalanche goalie Reto Berra made 33 saves through overtime. He gave up a goal to Tyler Bozak in the first round of the shootout before forcing James van Riemsdyk to shoot wide on the Maple Leafs’ second attempt.

Tanguay scored to end the game in the top half of the third.

"It's a big win, an important win for us," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I thought we had a great game, especially the start of the game we were outstanding. We had plenty of chances and their goalie made some good saves."

The Maple Leafs played almost the entire game without forward Daniel Winnik, who sustained a head injury at 0:45 of the first period, and defenseman Jake Gardiner, who left at 7:58 of the opening period when he sustained a lower-body injury by blocking a shot.

"He’s fine," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said of Winnik. "He says there’s nothing wrong with him."

Winnik was taken off the ice on a stretcher following a collision with Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda at center ice just outside the Colorado zone. Winnik, his helmet still on, landed on his head and lay on the ice for several minutes.

Carlyle said Gardiner has a deep bone bruise.

"It’s not broken," he said. "Hit him in the spot with equipment."

The Maple Leafs tied the game with 1:16 remaining in regulation -- 10 seconds after Bernier went to the bench for an extra attacker -- when Richard Panik took a shot that caromed into the net off Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin's skate.

"Just bad luck," Berra said.

The Avalanche had taken a 3-2 lead at 11:45 on a goal by Duchene, his first in seven games.

"It seems like that's our luck this year," Duchene said of Toronto's tying goal. "We do so much to score and we can't get anything to go, we only get a few to go, and they pull the goalie and we have guys in great position and it hits [Guenin's skate] and goes in. It was going four feet wide.

"The nice thing about it is we're so used to bounces by this point in the season, and they don't really faze us anymore. We don't expect them, but when they happen it's kind of like, 'OK, well we have another challenge here.’"

Duchene's goal was hardly of the textbook variety. After getting a pass in the slot from Ryan O'Reilly, he changed his mind about taking a shot because a Maple Leafs defenseman was in his way and he wound up chipping the puck to the end boards. Duchene retrieved it, skated from behind the net and stuffed it by Bernier near the right post.

"I got halfway in between shooting the puck," Duchene said. "At the last second I decided not to shoot, but I was kind of in the motion of shooting. I was going to hold it for a second and roof it on the far side. I was really ticked off and I grabbed the puck and I just kind of rammed it in the net. My game's a lot of finesse, but sometimes you have to be stubborn and just kind of whack at it."

The Avalanche tied the game 2-2 at 5:43 of the second period on a breakaway goal by Tanguay, who accepted a stretch pass from Zach Redmond, skated between two Maple Leafs defenders and beat Bernier for his team-leading fifth goal.

The Maple Leafs had gone ahead one minute earlier on a power-play goal by Bozak with Redmond serving a slashing penalty. Van Riemsdyk passed to Bozak just outside the crease for a shot that eluded Berra to the stick side.

The Avalanche had killed 29 consecutive penalties over a seven-game stretch before Bozak scored.

Berra, making his fourth start of the season, stopped Phil Kessel on a breakaway at 10:14 of the second period and later made saves against Panik and van Riemsdyk on 2-on-1 rushes.

"Some good timing saves," Berra said. "I'm happy I can stop those because I didn't have that many shots, especially in the first two periods. It was a tough game for a goalie. I had to stay focused. When they had chances it was probably a 2-on-1 or a breakaway."

Bernier, who made 31 saves, kept the game tied when he turned aside Tanguay right in front at 13:04 of the second after a Maple Leafs turnover.

Defenseman Nick Holden scored his first goal of the season 31 seconds into the game to give the Avalanche the early lead. He took a shot from the lower portion of the left circle after some work around the net by MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog.

The Maple Leafs tied the game on a goal by Kessel, his seventh, at 16:20. Cody Franson passed the puck in front, it deflected into the air, and Kessel batted it behind Berra. Kessel has three goals and six assists in a five-game scoring streak.

"It was one of those reckless type of games that I’m sure was exciting for fans," Carlyle said. "It’s never exciting for coaches.”

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