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Avalanche top Blackhawks with big third period

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Colorado Avalanche might be outside contention for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference, but they're playing like a team with postseason dreams.

The Chicago Blackhawks learned that lesson at United Center on Friday, when the Avalanche scored three goals in the third period to win 4-1.

Forward Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Tyson Barrie scored power-play goals to break a 1-1 tie before defenseman Brad Stuart's chip shot from center ice snuck past Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.

"Those were two big points," said Barrie, who scored two goals and assisted on one. "We know what position we're in, and we know we've got to win a lot of hockey games. I thought we played a great game and it was nice to get that power play going."

The Avalanche (25-23-11) have 61 points and need to pass four teams to earn the West's second wild card. Maybe if they played Chicago more often, they'd have better odds. After splitting this season's four-game series, Colorado is 6-3-0 against Chicago the past two seasons, including four wins in a row here dating to last season.

"I can only speak for the time that I've been here, the last four years, but for some reason in this building we seem to play well and we seem to get a win somehow," said Landeskog, who has a career-long five-game goal streak. "We've gotten absolutely lit up as well, but it's a fun place to play and easy to get up for the game."

It seems that way for goalie Semyon Varlamov, who made 27 saves after a 54-save shutout Jan. 6 in Colorado's 2-0 victory.

Varlamov, who didn't play in the Blackhawks' two wins at Pepsi Center, is 6-0-0 in his past seven appearances against them and 9-3-0 in 13 games for his career. In the past two games, he's made 80 saves on 81 shots.

Barrie, who has five goals and 10 points in 11 games against the Blackhawks, scored at 12:52 of the first period and started the tic-tac-toe play in the third for Landeskog, who capped it with his 15th goal. That made it 2-1 at 11:05 during a 5-on-3 that swung the momentum in Colorado's favor.

Interference penalties were called at 10:44 on Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and forward Patrick Sharp. Twenty-four seconds after Landeskog's goal, Barrie made it 3-1 with a slap shot from the point.

Colorado was 1-for-39 on its power play before the goals.

"Our power play scored two big goals for us," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "That was a perfect shot [by Barrie]. Good things happen when you put pucks on net. You never know what could happen. I will say this, I'm very proud of our team. It could've been very easy for us to be discouraged coming in here."

Stuart's flip 2:44 after Barrie's second goal somehow slithered past Crawford's goal stick and went into the net.

"I saw a guy up ice, and I thought maybe I could make something happen," Crawford said. "There's no way I should ever play the puck like that, that close to the net. It took a hop and it was just a stupid play on my part. It should never happen, but it was just a dumb play and I'm just going to forget about it."

The Blackhawks are 2-1-3 on their season high eight-game homestand, which ends against the Boston Bruins on Sunday and Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Chicago (35-19-5) has scored one first-period goal in its past 10 games. Kris Versteeg scored at 9:05 of the second period to tie it 1-1.

"I don't think there's a whole lot of emotion, judging by the way we played," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "Not too many good things to say about our effort tonight. It's up to us to be prepared. I don't care who it is across our lineup. Everyone needs to bring something and not delegate and not share the responsibility. It's up to each individual to bring a little bit more. Tonight we just didn't have anyone giving us that spark tonight."

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