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Avalanche top beat-up Hurricanes, now NHL-best 9-1-0

by Rick Sadowski /

DENVER -- Look who's No. 1.

The Colorado Avalanche continued their impressive start to the season Friday night with a 4-2 win against the injury-riddled Carolina Hurricanes at Pepsi Center.

Matt Duchene scored two goals and added an assist for the Avalanche, who have won three games in a row and now own the NHL's best record at 9-1-0. With 18 points, they have one more than the San Jose Sharks (8-1-1).

"It's nice, but you know what? If you look behind, everybody's pretty close," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "You can't have a night off. You have to be good every night. That's how we've been dealing with it."

The Avalanche have matched the best start through 10 games in franchise history; the Quebec Nordiques also won nine of their first 10 games in 1994-95.

The Avalanche missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third year in a row last season while finishing last in the Western Conference with the second-worst record in the NHL.

"It's special," Duchene said. "I've said before, going from where we've been last year and the year before and the year before that, it feels great right now. But you can't be satisfied. We know how fast it can turn. We've been there before with a nice start and then slowed down in the stretch. So we have to keep going the way we are."

Duchene's second goal of the game and eighth of the season put the

Avalanche ahead 4-1 at 0:36 of the third period. The goal came on a power play that carried over from the second period. Duchene was in the right faceoff circle near the hash marks when he put a wrist shot over goalie Justin Peters' shoulder.

"We had a good power play going," Duchene said. "We had a lot of chances. I was able to walk in and get a shot off."

The Hurricanes closed to 4-2 at 2:40 when Jiri Tlusty came out of the right corner with the puck and passed across to Andrej Sekera in the left circle for a one-timer that beat goalie Semyon Varlamov.

Varlamov responded with a huge save against Alexander Semin at 11:35 during a Hurricanes power play. After stopping a shot by Justin Faulk, Varlamov moved to his left to rob Semin's rebound attempt with his glove.

"It's always tough to play against him," said Varlamov, who made 15 of his 28 saves in the third period. "That was a good save to keep the game 4-2 and not 4-3. If they score the third goal, maybe the game changes. He's very dangerous in front of the net and very dangerous on the power play."

The Avalanche took a 3-1 lead in the second period when Duchene, who scored a highlight-reel goal in the first period, passed to Alex Tanguay in the slot for a goal at 10:11.

Duchene carried the puck into the Hurricanes end, moved into the right faceoff circle with Sekera defending and fed Tanguay for a quick shot behind Peters.

"It was a great play by Duchie," Tanguay said. "He posted up and I tried to get to the slot, and he put it right on my stick."

Drayson Bowman's goal 12 seconds into the period pulled the Hurricanes within 2-1. Jordan Staal won the opening faceoff and got the puck to Sekera, who moved down the left wing with Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin covering. When Guenin's defense partner moved over to Sekera, it left Bowman wide open on the opposite side for Sekera's cross-ice pass.

Erik Johnson and Duchene scored first-period goals to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead.

Johnson was listed as doubtful after getting hit on the foot hit with a puck in Wednesday's practice, but he pronounced himself fit to play after taking part in the pregame warm-up.

Johnson used his skate to send the puck into the net at 11:30 to open the scoring. Paul Stastny slipped the puck up the slot after taking a pass from Tanguay as Johnson and Hurricanes center Eric Staal skated toward the net. The puck hit Johnson's skate and slid past Peters. The goal was allowed to stand after a lengthy video review.

"I didn't know (if the goal would count)," Johnson said. "I was just driving the net. I pretty much stopped so I didn't run over the goal line, and the puck just happened to be at my feet. Lucky for me, it was a legal goal."

The Avalanche went on a five-on-three power play that lasted 1:47 a minute later, but they were limited to two shots and failed to convert.

Duchene made it 2-0 at 17:33. He retrieved the puck behind the net after Peters made a save against Ryan O'Reilly. Duchene made a spinning move and with one motion glided to the side and slid the puck underneath Peters, who was on his knees.

"Ryan made an unbelievable move to get a shot off," Duchene said. "I saw a little bit of daylight in terms of a wraparound and I saw the (defender) coming to cut me off. I didn't think it was going to work, but he bit on it a little bit, and I was able to tuck it in."

Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller wasn't happy with how his team played in the opening period, when the Avalanche had an 18-8 advantage in shots.

"You're not going to win hockey games on a consistent basis in this League if you don't have a good first period," he said. "Catch-up hockey is losing hockey. We've got to have a better first. We were strong in the second and third, but we've got to have a better first."

Peters started because the Hurricanes' top two goalies, Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin, are on injured reserve with lower-body injuries.

"I didn't want to think too much, didn't want to overanalyze it, just go out and play my game," said Peters, who faced 34 shots. "I felt comfortable. They're a pretty fast team and they play a pretty good game. It's such a fine line. I got caught a little deep on the fourth goal. I felt if I could have had that, it would've been a little tighter at the end. We were pressing and maybe they would have tightened up."

Already hobbled by injuries, the Hurricanes lost forward Radek Dvorak to a lower-body injury in the second period.

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