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Big third period lifts Avalanche past Jets

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- Cody McLeod's tiebreaking third-period goal helped the Colorado Avalanche defeat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 at MTS Centre on Monday.

Defenseman Zach Redmond took a pass just inside the blue line and skated into the slot as the Winnipeg defense collapsed on net. Redmond snapped a low shot on net that bounced off McLeod past Winnipeg goaltender Michael Hutchinson with 13:15 left for McLeod's fifth goal.

Matt Duchene's 11th goal, a backhand off the rush with 3:49 to go, ended a late Winnipeg push. Duchene has a seven-game point streak (seven goals, six assists) and 10 goals in November.

Blake Comeau's empty-net goal at 18:50 finished the scoring. Comeau also had an assist on McLeod's goal, and defenseman Francois Beauchemin had two assists.

The win ended a three-game losing streak and finished a 4-3-0 road trip for the Avalanche (8-12-1); the trip tied for the longest in Avalanche history. In a stretch of 14 of 18 games on the road, they start a two-game homestand Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators.

"[This] was a good test for us," McLeod said. "Winnipeg is a good, physical team, and I think that you know that every time you come in here it's going to be a battle. For the most part, we answered the bell. We played a full 60-minute good road game."

The win was the first for Colorado in Winnipeg since Dec. 12, 2013.

"Sometimes you can lose your focus (at the end of a road trip)," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I'm very proud of our guys that stayed focused and paid attention to the details of the game. I thought we did a good job defending and found ways to score big goals."

Winnipeg (10-10-2) ended a 2-1-0 homestand and will begin a three-game, four-day road trip Wednesday against the Washington Capitals. The Jets have lost seven of their past nine games (2-6-1) and are 2-6-0 against the Central Division.

"I don't know that I'm ready to make a sweeping generalization about where we're at as a team," Jets coach Paul Maurice said." I don't feel that we're that far off. We've got a lot of room to get better as a team. We do."

Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 20 saves in his return from a six-game absence because of a groin injury.

"I felt pretty good," Varlamov said. "I've been working a lot on conditioning to stay in shape. It's nice to be back."

Michael Hutchinson made 25 saves for the Jets, who placed goalie Ondrej Pavelec on injured reserve with a sprained knee. Pavelec will be out through at least December, leaving the Winnipeg goaltending to Hutchinson and rookie Connor Hellebuyck.

"We played well enough to win," Hutchinson said. "It's unfortunate that we didn't, but we just have to come out with the same effort for the rest of the season."

Toby Enstrom's first goal of the season gave Winnipeg a 1-0 lead 13:40 into the first period. Carl Soderberg's third goal, on a power play with 3:17 left in the second period, tied the game 1-1.

Winnipeg had three shots in the first 13:40 when Enstrom sent one from the high point through heavy traffic that fooled Varlamov. The goal was his first since Feb. 19 against Washington.

A Dustin Byfuglien cross-checking penalty on Duchene set up the tying goal. Soderberg peeled off the right boards, cut to the net and bounced the puck toward Hutchinson's crease, where it glanced off the skate of Winnipeg defenseman Tyler Myers into the net at 16:43.

The Avalanche needed a winning record on their road trip, which they began Nov. 10 with a 4-9-1 record, to stay in the mix in the Central Division. They remain last in the division five points behind sixth-place Winnipeg and sit 27th in the NHL with 17 points.

"We're teetering on that point where we could lose it too early [in the season] and get too far behind," Duchene said. "[This] was a turning point for us hopefully and what we've got to build on going forward."

After the morning skate, Roy had challenged Varlamov to return to the form he displayed in the 2013-14 season when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist. The 27-year-old is 4-6-1 this season with a .894 save percentage and a 3.05 goals-against average.

"I think [Roy is] right," Varlamov said. "He's not going to lie. He's always [telling] the truth. Mentally, it's really tough to play when you're giving up three, four goals every game, because I know that the expectations for me are huge. I know that. I'm ready to play and I just need to stay healthy."

Putting pucks on net for Varlamov to handle was an issue for the Jets. Colorado blocked 20 shot attempts, and Winnipeg missed another 20 attempts.

"Through two periods, we probably had played as well as we had all [season]," Maurice said. "It's a three-period game."

"We're not getting as many pucks to the net. [I would] like to see us get more clean pucks to the net. We're going to have to find a little simpler, cleaner way to get some pucks to the net."

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