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Avalanche snap Flyers' winning streak

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche continued their successful run when playing Eastern Conference teams, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

The Avalanche have gone 10-3-0 against the East this season, and the win was their sixth in a row at home against the Flyers, who came in on a 7-1-1 roll.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov made 29 saves and has enabled the Avalanche to pick up at least one point in each of his past nine starts, posting a 5-0-4 record in that stretch. He's allowed two or fewer goals in six of those games.

"I think we played pretty good defensive hockey; that's why we beat them tonight," Varlamov said. "It's all about the win. Everybody's excited when we're winning. I think we're playing better."

The Avalanche have gone 2-0-1 in the first three games of a seven-game homestand and have built a seven-point lead over the Dallas Stars in the race for third place in the Central Division.

"The message is clear: We don't want to be satisfied; we want more," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "That's the approach we try every day. We have to play like this to be in the playoff picture at the end."

The loss ended the Flyers' winning streak at four games. They reached the halfway point in the season with a 20-17-4 record and are third in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the second-place Washington Capitals.

"It was a pretty even game, some good opportunities either way," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "Guys battled hard. It was tight. We just couldn't find the back of the net."

Varlamov kept his team in front with 10 third-period saves, including a stop against Scott Hartnell, who drove to the net and tried to shove the puck by his pad with 3:24 remaining.

Flyers goalie Steve Mason, who won his previous five starts, made 29 saves.

Ryan O'Reilly gave the Avalanche a 2-0 lead at 9:17 of the second period. He worked a give-and-go with Gabriel Landeskog and skated to the net. Mason tried to poke the puck away with his stick, but O'Reilly managed to get off a shot and the puck bounced off Mason into the net.

"It hit me on the top of the right pad," Mason said. "I just bent down and it went over. Pretty (bad) break."

The Flyers cut the deficit in half at 13:48 when Wayne Simmonds redirected Andrej Meszaros' shot from the left point past Varlamov.

"I thought we had our chances," said Simmonds, who had five shots on goal. "I thought we played a good game. We just didn't capitalize on some of our chances. That's the game right there. (Varlamov) played really well. It would have been nice to pick up any points out of that game."

Varlamov made two big saves earlier in the period, stopping Hartnell's open shot that came from the right circle and stretching his body to smother Steve Downie's shot on a Flyers power play.

"I don't even know how he stopped that," Avalanche center Paul Stastny said of the save against Downie. "He pushes the pad and somehow holds on with that leg strength. Saves like that and being super flexible make him who he is."

Avalanche right wing Jamie McGinn scored the only goal of the first period. Erik Johnson passed to Matt Duchene skating down the slot for a shot that Mason stopped, but McGinn drove to the net and put in the rebound at 11:14 for his second goal in two games.

"I've got to give the guys credit there," McGinn said. "EJ made a great play, stepping up and breaking up a play and skating hard. (Duchene) drove the middle like we're supposed to hard and got the puck on net. I just came in for loose change."

The Flyers went on a power play at 14:13 of the first when Cody McLeod was penalized for holding Braydon Coburn. Varlamov made four saves during the man advantage, including a pad stop against Downie, who was thwarted on a backhanded shot on a clean breakaway.

"I think I was lucky on that one," Varlamov said. "He almost got me with the backhand. He's a good player, very skilled."

Downie faced the Avalanche for the first time since he was traded from Colorado to Philadelphia for Maxime Talbot on Oct. 31. Talbot drew a Sean Couturier tripping penalty earlier in the period and was called for hooking penalty against Meszaros in the third.

The Flyers lost left wing Michael Raffl to a concussion on a hit by Landeskog in the first period, and Berube said he would sit out against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday.

"It was fine," Berube said of the hit. "I didn't think it was a penalty. He's against the glass, (Landeskog) hit him. It's a tough play. I didn't think it was a dirty hit at all."

The Flyers already were without forward Matt Read, who sustained an upper-body injury Tuesday against the Calgary Flames.

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