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Avalanche hang on to beat Predators, 6-5

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER – It was Presidents' Day Monday in the United States, so defense and goaltending also took a holiday at the Pepsi Center.

The Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators, two of the lowest-scoring teams in the National Hockey League, put on a rare offensive display with the Avalanche eventually prevailing 6-5.

Matt Duchene and Aaron Palushaj collected a goal and two assists each for the Avalanche, who began the day averaging 2.3 goals per game.

Five players each had a goal and an assist for the Predators, who were averaging 1.9 goals per game.

"It was a crazy game out there, that's for sure," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "It was entertaining for the fans, but maybe not so much for the coaches. The bottom line is we found a way to win. It was not the game that we expected. It was just one of those games."

The teams combined for seven goals on 27 shots in the second period when the Avalanche chased Predators starting goalie Chris Mason with three goals in a 2:30 span and built a 6-4 lead.

The Avalanche did need some timely saves from goalie Semyon Varlamov in the third period when the Predators enjoyed a 17-5 advantage in shots. Patric Hornqvist had eight of them and 12 shots overall, but the only goal came when Shea Weber scored from the right circle with 1:18 to play.

"That is my job, to stop the puck," said Varlamov, who allowed four goals on 21 shots through the first two periods. "There were a lot of chances, a lot of goals, and we got the win."

The second-period scoring spree started when Duchene, who was clearly offside when he accepted a long pass from PA Parenteau, moved in on Mason and flipped the puck by his glove at 3:18 for a 3-1 Avalanche lead, prompting plenty of Predators protests.

"The League already verified it that it should have been an offside," Predators coach Barry Trotz said. "The explanation from the crew here, unfortunately, was wrong. They said that we passed it back; we didn't pass it back. That's why they didn't blow the whistle. It's just one of those things. Everybody has a bad day. That's part of life, that's part of the game. Certain things are going to happen and you can't control them. That's nothing we can control and we've just got to play through it, and we didn't."

Said Predators defenseman Scott Hannan: "I don't understand that call at all. (Parenteau) shoots it five feet high and it gets deflected and somehow Duchene … you (reporters) saw it up top."

Duchene, who has four goals and as many assists during a four-game point-scoring streak, said he was "shocked" when offside wasn't called.

"Even after I shot it, I thought maybe I missed something," he said. "It might have been a good call by the linesman. From what I heard, it wasn't, but you never know. It's the way they saw it. But we're going to take that any day of the week. This team has had so many bad bounces from the years I've been here, even this season with injuries and stuff.

"I was a hundred percent offside, but I think what the ruling was that Nashville brought the puck back in. Because they controlled it and brought it back, that it wasn't offside. I didn't see what happened and I still haven't seen what happened. The puck was beside me and I thought, ‘I'll just touch it and get a whistle here and get a faceoff.' They didn't blow the whistle, so the goalie just stood up and I was able to catch him quick there."

After Nashville's Mike Fisher and Colin Wilson sandwiched goals around one by Colorado's Chuck Kobasew, Paul Stastny and Jamie McGinn scored 13 seconds apart to pad the Avalanche lead to 6-3.

Stastny swept a rebound behind Mason at 13:33 after a poor Predators' line change and McGinn scored from just inside the left hash marks at 13:46 off a pass from Duchene, who stole the puck from Weber behind the Nashville net.

"Dutchie made a great play on a really good defenseman," McGinn said. "He's pretty slippery out there. He used his speed and his strength. He was trying to find an open area. He's a real skilled player and he can just lay it out there for you. I found a quiet area and I made sure to bury the puck."

The quick goals by Stastny and McGinn prompted Trotz to replace Mason (six goals, 18 shots) with Pekka Rinne, who stopped all 10 shots he faced.

"We stopped playing and they scored two goals," Trotz said. "Give us credit, we stuck with it. I felt we should have had a point. The scoring chances were pretty lopsided in the third period; they were about 15-1."

The Predators closed to 6-4 with 49.6 seconds left in the second period when Jonathon Blum put a shot behind Varlamov from just inside the blue line. But Varlamov, who faced 55 shots Saturday in Edmonton when the Avalanche turned a 4-1 lead into a 6-4 loss, held on in the third.

"You have to give Nashville a little credit, too," Sacco said. "You knew they were going to make a push. But overall we handled it well and Varly came up with some enormous saves at the end."

The Avalanche skated to a quick 2-0 lead on goals by Palushaj and Tyson Barrie, whose first career NHL goal also was the first goal scored by a Colorado defenseman this season.

Palushaj was credited with a goal at 3:43 of the opening period after his shot off the end boards bounced into the crease behind Mason, who inadvertently kicked the puck into the net with his right skate. Barrie, playing in his 17th NHL game, beat Mason with a shot from the left point on a power play at 9:30 before the Predators answered with a power-play goal by Sergei Kostitsyn at 17:20.

Predators center Paul Gaustad suffered an upper-body injury in the first period and didn't return.

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