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Avs top Sharks 4-3 in shootout

by Rick Sadowski /
DENVER -- All of a sudden, the Colorado Avalanche has regained home-ice advantage at the Pepsi Center.
After losing eight of its first 11 games at home, the Avalanche won their fourth in a row at home and fifth in the past six on home ice Tuesday night with a 4-3 shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks.

"We started off so terrible at home and we still have a lot of ground to make up," center Matt Duchene said.
It didn't hurt the cause to get involved in a shootout, where the Avalanche has gone 5-0 this season.
Rookie Gabriel Landeskog's goal against San Jose goalie Antti Niemi in the fifth round proved decisive when Avs goalie Semyon Varlamov stopped the Sharks' Brad Winchester. Milan Hejduk converted for Colorado in the first round and San Jose's Joe Pavelski scored in the third round.
"I kind of had my mind made up already before I grabbed the puck," said Landeskog, who beat Niemi low to the blocker side. "I kind of closed my eyes and shot it. I've been struggling a little bit to put the puck in the net, but the main focus is to win hockey games. To score a goal and win a hockey game feels great."

Varlamov has allowed just two goals on 16 shots in shootouts this season and the Avalanche has won 16 of 17 shootouts going back to December 2009.

"Every shot is very tough in a shootout," said Varlamov, who stopped 27 shots through 65 minutes. "I think it is a more emotional game for the (shooter) and for the goalie. I just try and see what is going to happen. This is a huge win for us."

It appeared the Avalanche would secure the win in regulation until Patrick Marleau, who had a hat trick against Colorado when the teams met Nov. 30, cashed in Logan Couture's pass with 22 seconds remaining and Niemi on the bench for a sixth attacker.

"The goal that we have up at the end, you have to give a little credit to San Jose. They made a nice play," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "But our forwards overextended their shifts there. They had an opportunity to change, and they should have, and they got caught out there too long.   

"But getting the extra point was critical. We did play such a strong game. Had we not gotten the extra point, it would have been a little different mood in the locker room. It's one game; we don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but certainly when we play like that, when we play with that urgency and that consistency, we can get some good results."

Daniel Winnik and Duchene scored third-period goals 5:20 apart to give the Avalanche a 3-2 lead.

"Giving up a lead in the third was tough, but we battled back to grab a point," said Sharks captain Joe Thornton, whose team is in a 2-5-2 skid. "The effort was great tonight start to finish. You know we have been competing hard. I think as long as you keep on competing, you are going to have your peaks and valleys and you just have to kind of ride them out. There are a lot of good signs right now."

Winnik, with his first goal in 18 games, tied the game 2-2 at 6:31 with a wraparound after Niemi made a save on Erik Johnson's shot from the right point. Duchene broke the tie at 11:51 on a power play with San Jose's Colin White in the penalty box for holding. Hejduk passed from the right circle out to Duchene, who moved to the inner edge of the left circle and blasted the puck over Niemi's right shoulder.
"Hedgie just found me in the seam there and I was able to find some room," Duchene said. "I stopped it and put my head up and just looked for some daylight. (Landeskog) was doing a great job in front screening and I don't think the goalie saw it."

The Avalanche had gone 1-for-23 on power plays in the previous seven games and was in a 4-for-46 drought covering 14 games.

Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle had a goal and an assist in the second period to give his team a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes. Boyle set up Jamie McGinn for a rare power-play goal and put the Sharks in front with his second goal of the season and first since Nov. 7.

The Sharks were in 0-for-15 and 1-for-25 slumps with the extra man when Colorado's TJ Galiardi went off for high-sticking at 1:25. The power play was winding down when Boyle kept the puck from exiting the Avalanche zone, wheeled to his right into the high slot and fired a shot that McGinn redirected past Varlamov at 3:16.

Boyle scored at 13:39 after Pavelski's shot deflected up the slot. It came to Boyle between the circles and he didn't waste any time ripping it into the net.

Avalanche rookie defenseman Stefan Elliott scored with 16.6 seconds remaining in the first period with a spectacular coast-to-coast rush. He began at his own goal line, sprinted up the right side of the ice and beat Niemi to the far post with a shot from the top of the right circle.
"It's a great individual play," Sacco said. "There's not much else to say. We talk about going D to D and moving the puck up to the forwards, but that play works, too."
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