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Avs beat Hawks 4-3 in shootout to stay perfect at home

by Rick Sadowski /

DENVER - The Colorado Avalanche might not be much of a surprise to NHL opponents anymore, and neither should rookie Ryan O'Reilly.

The Avalanche won for the sixth time in as many games at the PepsiCenter on Friday night with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. With the victory, they're now 12-3-2 overall for 26 points, tops in the overall standings.

O'Reilly, one of two 18-year-old centers on the roster - Matt Duchene, the No. 3 pick in the 2009 draft, is the other - scored two goals and played another solid overall game.

O'Reilly, the first of the Avalanche's two second-round selections (No. 33) in June, has at least one point in 11 games and is tied with Wojtek Wolski for second on the team in scoring with 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists).

"What I like about his game - he scored two goals, which is obviously very important for us -- but this guy does so many little things well that a lot of people probably don't notice," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.

"He's always in the right position, he's always on the right side of the puck. These are little intangibles that you just can't really teach to a player. I'm pretty impressed by his ability to think the game out there."

About the only thing O'Reilly couldn't do Friday was score in the shootout, which went eight rounds. It was decided when Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien missed on a slap shot when his stick broke after Colorado's Chris Stewart began the round by firing a shot past goalie Antti Niemi from just below the right faceoff dot.

The teams have played the two longest shootouts in the NHL this season. The Blackhawks defeated the Avalanche 4-3 in a nine-rounder at the UnitedCenter on Oct. 10.

"I just came in off the far wing," Stewart said of his shootout winner. "Usually coming in there, I look to deke. But I noticed the far side was open so I let a quick shot go. After five or six rounds, it's pretty much a crapshoot. No one really knows who's going to be up next."

The Avalanche fell behind 2-0 in the first 10 1/2 minutes of the first period, but no one panicked. Colorado has turned a 2-0 deficit into a win four times this season.

"We know we can do it," O'Reilly said. "You don't give up. We kept battling out there. It seems like we like to play from being down by two. It worked out well and we had to win that shootout and (goalie) Craig (Anderson) came up big."

Said Sacco: "It says a lot about our team, a lot about the determination that we have. We got off to a slow start. I thought we were a step behind in the first period. That surprised me because they played (Thursday) night and we were fresh. Give them some credit; they came out and had a little bit more urgency. But I thought after we got our legs, we started to skate better and we had a little bit more pressure."

The Blackhawks needed a goal from Andrew Ladd at 16:40 of the second period to tie the game at 3-3. Ladd shoveled a loose puck into a half-empty net after Anderson made a save against Patrick Sharp.

O'Reilly's second goal of the game put the Avalanche in front 3-2 at 8:42 of the second period, just as a penalty to teammate Adam Foote expired. O'Reilly raced into the Blackhawks zone, skated in on Niemi and put in his own rebound.

"I caught them on a bad change and I just took off," O'Reilly said. "I picked up the puck and took a shot and followed up the rebound. It seems that all my goals have come on rebounds so far."

David Jones scored a shorthanded goal during the penalty to Quincey to tie the game 2-2. Scott Hannan passed to Jones, who went end-to-end and skated by Byfuglien before banging the puck behind Niemi.

The Avalanche only had three shots in the second period and eight through two periods, five of them by O'Reilly.

The Blackhawks grabbed their 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Byfuglien and Duncan Keith.

Byfuglien put a low shot from the right point through a screen and past Anderson at 6:27 on a power play. Chicago had gone 2-for-32 with the man advantage in the previous seven games.

Keith one-timed a shot from the slot into the net at 10:36 off a centering pass from Patrick Kane to make it 2-0.

"We came out and we had the start that we wanted," Chicago's Troy Brouwer said. "We got up a couple goals and got a little bit complacent."

Colorado pulled within 2-1 at 18:38 on O'Reilly's first goal. He flipped the puck inside the right post after some effective work from Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski along the end boards.

"That was a big goal," Sacco said. "I don't want to say it was the turning point of the game, but it certainly was an important goal at that time. Going into the (second) period down 2-0 would have been a lot different. It was a timely goal."

The Avalanche lost defenseman John-Michael Liles to a shoulder injury in the first period. He will be re-examined Saturday. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who is recovering from a concussion, missed his sixth consecutive game.

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