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Avs hand Stars fourth straight loss, 3-0

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER -- Home ice hasn't been much of a benefit for the Colorado Avalanche, which needs to take advantage of an unusually-long eight-game stand at the Pepsi Center to get its season untracked.
The Avalanche got off to a positive start Friday night with a 3-0 win against the Dallas Stars, just Colorado's third victory in nine home games and its second in the past nine games overall.

"We obviously have talked about wanting to establish our play at home, to be a good home team, so that was a good start for us," coach Joe Sacco said. "It was a good effort from start to finish."

Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, starting back-to-back games for what he said was the first time since the 2008 playoffs with Anaheim, stopped 24 shots for his 35th career shutout.

"A shutout is a team thing. You can't do a shutout without everybody contributing," Giguere said. Signed as a backup for Semyon Varlamov on July 1, the 34-year-old veteran has posted a 4-2 record with a 1.68 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

Giguere was quick to point out that a goaltending controversy doesn't between him and Varlamov, 23, who got off to a fast start but is winless in his past six decisions.

"The future of this team belongs to Varly, there's no doubt about that," Giguere said. "Just like any young guy on this team, you can have ups and downs. It's just the way this game is. It's the toughest league and sometimes it gets to you. You know he's going to bounce back. My job, meanwhile, is to take over and try to do as best as I can and try to give the team a chance."

Giguere did exactly that after Chuck Kobasew scored an early first-period goal on a deflection. The Avalanche nursed a 1-0 lead into the third period before adding late power-play goals from Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene, the latter's into an empty net with 4.5 seconds remaining.


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The Avs, who had lost three in a row, outshot the Stars 45-24. Dallas, which has allowed 40 or more shots five times, has lost four games in a row after winning four in a row and five of its previous six.

"To me, the discouraging part is we're just not winning any of our individual battles," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "If you're not going to win your own 1-on-1 battles, then there's really nothing we can do. It seems like if we get a chipped puck into our end, they get on the forecheck and keep it in there for 30 seconds. We chip one in their end, we get on it, we're in there for five. You can't have it going that way all the time. Each guy's battle-level has to come up."

Giguere's victory was the 235th of his NHL career, moving him into sole possession of 50th place on the all-time list ahead of Eddie Johnston.

"I think Jiggy has played very well," Sacco said. "Varly is going through a tough stretch now, but I'm confident he'll be back to top form."

The Avalanche started the night with the NHL's second-best power play but was in a 0-for-12 drought covering parts of four games until Stastny scored with 5:26 to play in the third period for a 2-0 lead. Stastny was on his knees in front when he slid the rebound of Gabriel Landeskog's shot behind goalie Kari Lehtonen and into a half-open net.

"Sometimes it just takes a simple play, just going to the net," Stastny said. "They were taking the point shots away, so I just tried to be in the middle for Landy. He took a quick shot and (Ryan) O'Reilly tied up their D-man, which opened me up. I was just reaching for (the puck)."

Stastny's goal gave him 334 career points, moving him into a 10th-place tie with Mats Sundin on the Quebec/Colorado all-time scoring list.
Sacco changed all four of his line combinations in an attempt to shake up his struggling team, but it was the fourth line that produced the game's only goal through two periods.
Kobasew scored it at 6:10 of the opening period, his third goal of the season and first in eight games. TJ Galiardi passed the puck out to defenseman Ryan Wilson for a shot from just inside the blue line and Kobasew deflected it past Lehtonen.

"We've been playing hard lately without much success," said Giguere, who made 17 saves Thursday in a 1-0 loss in Minnesota. "We really bore down tonight and did a lot of good things, shot a lot of pucks. Our power play came through at the end and we stayed disciplined and played well defensively. That's the kind of game we have to play at home."
Sacco moved Landeskog from O'Reilly's line to a unit with Duchene and Milan Hejduk; David Jones skated at left wing with O'Reilly and Daniel Winnik; and Stastny anchored a unit with left wing Kevin Porter and right wing Brandon Yip.

"Like I said before, when things don't go well, when you're going through a tough stretch, I'm not afraid to shake things up," Sacco said. "I thought they all played well and were very effective."

The game was a far cry from the teams' wild Nov. 4 meeting in Dallas, when the Stars won 7-6 in overtime.

"We need to put more pucks in net," said Lehtonen, whose Stars team has been outscored 17-3 during its losing streak and has been blanked in two consecutive games. "It is not like you are going to score on every shot, but that is the way you get more scoring. That is what you need when you are having trouble scoring the past couple of games."

Lehtonen made 17 saves in the second period to keep the Stars within a goal before the Stars took four penalties in the third

Steve Ott returned to the Stars lineup after missing six games with a hip injury. He skated on a line with Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder.
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