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Avalanche rally for 4-3 win over Ducks

by Josh Brewster

The Colorado Avalanche wouldn't let a little thing like a two-goal deficit in one of the NHL's toughest buildings get them down.

For the seventh time this season, the Avs overcame a deficit of two or more goals to leave with a victory. This time, they spotted Anaheim a 2-0 lead, then roared back with four unanswered goals -- one by newcomer Peter Mueller -- and ended the Ducks' 11-game home winning streak with a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night.

"I just don't think we quit," said rookie center Matt Duchene, who scored the go-ahead goal in the third period. "In the second period, we had that urgency to bear down. We had that urgency for the rest of the game, and it helped us come out on top."

Anaheim got a power-play goal from Jason Blake 16:11 into a first period in which it outshot Colorado 14-2. Teemu Selanne finished off a 3-on-2 break at 4:37 of the second for his 598th career goal and a 2-0 lead, and the Ducks appeared well on their way to their 12th win in a row at the Honda Center.

They weren't.

"We were skating and taking care of the puck in the first period," Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said. "In the second, they came at us different and we started to turn it over. It just all the sudden seemed to their way. It's disappointing when you come out like that and it comes out this way."

With some help from a power play that had been 3-for-37, the Avs took control of the game by doing all the things they hadn't done until then.

"We knew that we had to play better," Avs coach Joe Sacco said. "We had to get some more passion in our game, and I thought we did that. We were more physical, we started to finish more checks, and as a result, you're more involved in the play."

With Anaheim's Sheldon Brookbank off for hooking, Duchene cycled the puck through the right circle and slid a pass to Paul Stastny, who passed across Hiller's crease and behind Anaheim defenders Scott Niedermayer and James Wisniewski. Chris Stewart, waiting for the puck to the right of Jonas Hiller's crease, slammed the pass into the open side at 9:10.

After Anaheim's Mike Brown went off for charging Ruslan Salei, John-Michael Liles dove across the blue line to keep Troy Bodie's clearing attempt in the zone at the left point. The puck bounced to Mueller, acquired from Phoenix earlier in the day, and his soft 55-foot writer shot glanced off defenseman James Wisniewski's arm and sailed past Hiller to tie the game 2-2 at 15:42.

"To lead it off with a goal and a big 'W,' it definitely doesn't get better than that," Mueller said. "Two shots in the first (period) is not good enough. I think we took that to heart and went out there and played a lot harder, finished a lot more bodies there. I think that was the key to the game."

Sacco was pleased with Mueller's Avalanche debut.

"He did a real good job tonight," Sacco said. "His first game with a new team, new surroundings. He did a real nice job. He created some offense like we expected him to (and) did a good job defensively. I think he'll continue to improve."

Duchene, the top scorer among rookies, put Colorado ahead to stay when he banged in his own rebound 8:09 into the third period for the Avs' third power-play goal. T.J. Galiardi hammered home the rebound of Stastny's shot 70 seconds later for a 4-2 lead.

"As soon as we started shooting pucks, good things happened," Duchene said. "I think that was the key in the second and third (periods)."

Niedermayer scored a power-play goal for Anaheim with 3:05 left to make it 4-3, but the Ducks couldn't get the equalizer past Craig Anderson, who finished with 31 saves and helped kill a late four-minute advantage for Anaheim.

"Andy's been our savior this year," Stewart said. "He's showed up in the big games and made the big saves, especially on their 5-on-4 power play for four minutes."

"We played one period of hockey," a disappointed Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We didn't play very well after the first period. They turned it up. We stopped doing what we needed to do and started getting quick. We played too soft around the puck and some individuals had bad nights."

Anaheim had a chance to move within a point of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but wasted the opportunity. The Ducks next play at Phoenix on Saturday night before a much-needed stretch of seven straight at home.

"Right now every game is important and the most important one was tonight," Hiller said. "It's tough. We were close .We had a 2-0 lead and gave the game away. We have 19 games left and still have a lot of chances. We have to believe and play better next game."

Awaiting the arrivals of defensemen Aaron Ward and Lubomir Visnovsky, acquired earlier in the day, the Ducks dressed only five defensemen after dealing Ryan Whitney to the Oilers for Visnovsky.

"We only had (five defensemen) available to us because we couldn't get anybody here by the time everything was settled," Carlyle said. "It's always a strain, but that is the hand we were dealt."

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