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Avalanche overcome Devils in shootout

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have gotten accustomed to putting in extra work in recent weeks. Four of their past five games and seven of the past 13 have been decided in an overtime or a shootout -- including Thursday at Pepsi Center when they used a tiebreaker to defeat the New Jersey Devils 2-1.

Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly scored against Devils goalie Cory Schneider in the first and third rounds of the tiebreaker; Schneider made a save against Nathan MacKinnon in the second round. Duchene shot the puck between Schneider's pads and O'Reilly chipped it past his glove.

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov made a pad save against Patrick Elias and forced Adam Henrique to shoot wide before O'Reilly connected for the winner.

"I played with Cory Schneider over in Europe a little bit, so I know him a little bit," Duchene said. "He's a very aggressive goalie, he has great reflexes and I just tried to get him to bite on a fake and was able to open him up and slip it home. He played outstanding for them as well. O'Reilly had an outstanding shot on him as well in the shootout."

While the Avalanche have gone 3-3 in shootouts this season, the Devils have lost all eight of their shootouts while scoring once on 25 shots. Going back to last season, they've dropped 12 in a row, an NHL record.

"I've never been lights out in the shootout, but I've been good enough -- win some lose some," said Schneider, who made 37 saves through the five-minute overtime. "I don't know what it is this year. I'm just not having a lot of success. A lot has been made about the guys out front not scoring, but it's up to the goalie to make three, four saves and keep it scoreless and get to extra rounds and you find a way to win.

"I don't know what it is right now. I'm not coming up with the saves in the shootout. When you're not getting wins from it and you're leaving points on the table, it matters. It's still a loss, technically. It would have been nice to pull a 'W' out of the fire. At the end of the day it's still a hollow feeling."

Colorado (30-12-5) has won three in a row and is 7-1-2 in its past 10 games to pull within four points of the second-place St. Louis Blues in the Central Division. The Avalanche matched the 2000-01 team for winning 30 times in the fewest games (47).

New Jersey (20-18-11) is 1-0-2 in the first three games of a four-game road trip that ends Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes and is 3- 0-3 in the past six games overall.'

Varlamov, who made 33 saves, said he still isn't a fan of shootouts.

"Not really," he said. "There's so much pressure on the goalies. I like winning games without shootouts."

Varlamov is 10-0-5 in his past 15 starts, one short of Peter Budaj's franchise record for consecutive decisions without a regulation loss. Budaj went 13-0-3 from Feb. 24 - April 5, 2007. Varlamov hasn't lost in regulation since Dec. 10, a 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

"He was outstanding," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said of Varlamov. "The first two periods we played really well in front of him. For some reason in the third it opened up, but he was there. On every great scoring chance they had, he was outstanding. But at the same time, after two periods, I thought it should have been 3-0 for us. We had some great chances and made some great plays."

Each goalie made five saves in overtime. Varlamov made a glove stop against Jaromir Jagr on a 2-on-1 rush at 2:13, and Schneider got his pad in front of O'Reilly with 23 seconds left on a similar rush by the Avalanche.

"That was a pretty good save," Varlamov said of his stop against Jagr. "An important save in the game. I can't say anything about my saves. That's my job, to try and keep the guys in the game. It was a huge (extra) point. Every game that's coming is going to be very important."

O'Reilly scored for the third consecutive game to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead at 8:55 of the first period. O'Reilly, who has four goals in the streak, was in the slot when Patrick Bordeleau fed him from behind the net. O'Reilly connected on a one-timer, beating Schneider high to the stick side.

The Devils tied the game at 8:59 of the third period on a goal by Reid Boucher, who tipped a shot by Andrei Loktionov from the right circle.

The Devils had more shots in the third period (18) than in the first two periods combined (11).

"Schneider gave us a chance to get to the third," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We probably deserved to be down and out at the end of 40 minutes. He kept us in there. I thought in the third and in the overtime we finally checked in and played. We hadn't done much for 40 minutes. We played hard for 20 minutes. They are a good team, it was a tough game."

The Avalanche began the night on a 9-for-23 roll on power plays but went 0-for-3 with the man advantage. The Devils, who went 0-for-2 on power plays, have killed 33 of 37 penalties in their past 11 games.

The Avalanche outshot the Devils 13-2 in the second period. Ryane Clowe had New Jersey's first shot at 9:35, and Henrique had the other while helping to kill Loktionov's slashing penalty that started at 15:42.

"The first two periods, whatever it was, the altitude or us not executing, not supporting, not moving our legs, you can combine all of those things and that's how we played in the first two periods," said Elias, who missed the previous seven games because of what the Devils called total body soreness.

"They're a young team, they skate well, they're in your face and they're playing well. The way we played in the third, it seemed like they couldn't play with us. It was like two different games."

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