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Beauchemin's two goals help Avalanche top Islanders

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- It took them more than two months, but the Colorado Avalanche are back at .500 after a 2-1 win against the New York Islanders at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

Francois Beauchemin scored his second goal of the game with 3:48 remaining in the third period to break a 1-1 tie, and Semyon Varlamov made 33 saves for his fifth win in a row.

Beauchemin, who has three goals and three assists in the past six games, took a shot from the left corner that hit the skate of Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski in front of the net and bounced behind goalie Thomas Greiss, who had 28 saves.

"It feels great, obviously, to get two goals," said Beauchemin, who matched his NHL career high for goals in a game. "It doesn't happen too often for me. I happened to get a rebound in the corner and just threw it in front with guys there; it hit one of their guys and went in. Some nights, that's the way it goes."

Beauchemin scored his first goal at 3:48 of the first period after taking a pass from Andreas Martinsen. Using Martinsen as a screen, Beauchemin shot from the right point and beat Greiss high to the far side.

"I just kept the puck in the zone, threw a little wrister at the net, and it found its way in," Beauchemin said.

Colorado has won four consecutive games for the first time since March 25-April 5, 2014, when they won six in a row. The Avalanche (16-16-1) moved within three points of the Nashville Predators for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. They're at .500 for the first time since Oct. 16, when they were 2-2-0.

The Avalanche, who are 5-7-1 at home, were coming off a three-game road sweep of the Central Division rival Predators, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks.

"It would have been easy to be satisfied after those three wins," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "I thought we came back and played a strong game. I think we were very determined to play well in front of our home fans and play a good game, and I thought that's what our guys did.

"You know what? It's early in the season, and I think it's just a matter of playing some good hockey and winning some hockey games. Not only are we at the .500 mark, which is something we're happy about right now as of today, we're having a good month of December (7-2-0), and it's important for us to continue to play that way. Our guys are sharp right now and playing some good hockey."

The Islanders (18-10-5) have lost two games in a row after going 8-0-2 in their previous 10 games.

"It's just frustrating," New York coach Jack Capuano said. "There are games this year we've had no right winning, we come in here and play a real solid game and walk away with no points. It came down to a turnover at the offensive blue line; they go the other way, throw a puck at the net, and it goes off of Grabovski.

"That's just the way the bounces are going right now. It's a good play to throw pucks at the net. You don't know what can happen. The way the game was going, with the teams trading chances, you knew it was going to be one of those greasy goals."

Greiss went to the bench for a sixth attacker with 1:40 remaining, and the Islanders applied some pressure but managed two shots on Varlamov.

"I thought at the end, the 6-on-5, we had the personnel we wanted and we had a couple of chances, but we couldn't bury one," Capuano said.

Varlamov has allowed five goals on 162 shots during his five-game streak and has a 6-1-0 record in December with a 1.13 goals-against average and .965 save percentage.

"We're playing solid defensively," he said. "Everything comes from defense. If we're playing solid defense, we're going to get success. It feels really good. I hope we're going to continue to do the same thing because the guys work really hard right now. Everybody is really focusing and we're battling."

The Islanders tied the game 1-1 on a second-period power-play goal by Brock Nelson with Mikhail Grigorenko serving a hooking penalty. The Avalanche had trouble clearing the zone, and Nelson converted Marek Zidlicky's pass, beating Varlamov at 4:55 from above the left hash marks.

The Islanders killed both Avalanche power plays and have killed 26 in a row in an 11-game stretch. Colorado is in a 1-for-26 slump with the man-advantage in the past 10 games.

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