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Duchene nets two as Avs edge Coyotes

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Matt Duchene is only a teenager; he sure doesn't play like one.

The 19-year-old rookie, selected No. 3 in the 2009 Entry Draft, has been on a tear since late November after getting off to a slow start that included hitting more metal than the back of enemy nets.

"I must have hit 20 crossbars, but I didn't get down on myself," he said.

Duchene now has 20 goals, tops on the Avalanche, after his fifth two-goal game of the season came Friday night in Colorado's fourth consecutive win and fifth in a row on home ice, 2-1 over the Phoenix Coyotes at the PepsiCenter.

Duchene, who has scored 17 goals in the past 34 games, also leads all NHL rookies in scoring with 42 points.

"It's pretty humbling, I guess, to be able to do that," Duchene said. "I just feel so grateful to have the opportunity to play here and to have such great teammates. Most of the credit goes to them, for sure."

Duchene acknowledged thinking about the possibility of winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie, but he's more concerned about doing whatever he can to help the Avalanche gain a playoff berth.

"I'm a competitive guy and I want to be the best I can be and try to be the best, period," he said. "But I think if you take care of your team first, that stuff comes second. If you work towards a team goal, you get personal accolades and that's the approach I take."

The victory enabled the Avalanche to keep pace with the Northwest Division-leading Vancouver Canucks; both teams have 76 points, but the Canucks have two more wins, 37-35.

"I think the best motto to have is to just take care of ourselves," Duchene said. "Don't worry about what you can't control. This is a big win for us. We're still battling it out with them."

Duchene broke a 1-1 tie with 4:33 remaining in regulation when he redirected Brett Clark's long shot past Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who finished with 23 saves.

"Clarkie took an unbelievable shot, one that was perfect to tip," Duchene said. "It was very easy on my part. I just had to get my stick on it. There was a little bit of luck, too."

Bryzgalov agreed. "Just lucky," he said. "It hit him on the stick and changed direction."

The Avalanche were also fortunate to keep the Coyotes off the scoreboard after taking four consecutive penalties in the third period. The Coyotes, who are in a 1-for-32 slump on the power play, took penalties of their own six and four seconds, respectively, into two-man advantages.

"We had some chances to score a goal, but we did not capitalize," Bryzgalov said. "We only have to blame ourselves. We took penalty after penalty and shot ourselves in the foot."

The Coyotes' lone goal was scored by Martin Hanzal, who knocked in the rebound of Shane Doan's shot to tie the game at 4:24 of the second period.

"We're just not getting the plays we need to make, and it has to be better," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

Phoenix, which won eight of its previous nine games, outshot Colorado 12-3 in the second period and held the Avalanche without a shot until T.J. Galiardi finally got one with 5:09 remaining.

"They're a very big team, they play physical and they take the lanes away," Duchene said. "They don't give you anything. The first period we did OK and the second period we didn't play our game."

Anderson kept the score tied in the second period with a glove deflection against Radim Vrbata on a breakaway at 14:03.

"I just wanted to read what he was doing, and he was coming in pretty quick," said Anderson, who made 33 saves. "I just challenged him and read that he was going high glove, and I got a piece of it."

The Avalanche broke an 0-for-12 drought on power plays covering parts of four games at 7:58 of the first period when Duchene put in the rebound of Chris Stewart's shot at the very end of a 39-second two-man advantage.

"Stewey made a great play," Duchene said. "He just put it on net and he caught Bryzgalov cheating a little bit. He thought it was going to be a pass. He was out of position and I was able to put it in."

Colorado has scored eight goals in 5-on-3 situations this season, most in the League.

"It was exactly the type of game I thought it would be," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Phoenix is a very difficult team to play against. They make you work for everything on the ice. Every inch of ice out there is very difficult to gain. It was a hard, grinding game and we were fortunate to get that second goal to find a way to win."

Avalanche captain Adam Foote was forced to leave in the first period because of back spasms. He will be re-evaluated before Saturday's game in Los Angeles.

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