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Grossmann's two goals lead Coyotes past Avalanche

by Jerry Brown /

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Coyotes defenseman Nicklas Grossman has said that he takes more satisfaction in blocking shots than scoring goals. But after 543 NHL games and a decade of bumps and bruises, a victory in the first two-goal game of his career was pretty satisfying.

Grossmann scored in the first and second periods to help the Coyotes built a 3-1 lead, and they held on for a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker each had two assists for Arizona (6-5-1). But for one night the offensive star was Grossmann, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound crease-clearer who had never scored two goals in the same calendar month, let alone a game.

With 11 games remaining in November, who knows what's ahead?

"I always try to take care of the defensive part, but it's always fun to contribute offensively," said Grossmann, who had five of his 10 career goals with the Philadelphia Flyers last season. "We talked about them having a skilled team and we wanted to play in their zone and get pucks on the net. I wanted to get pucks down low and I got some breaks."

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith made 26 saves, including big ones on Francois Beauchemin and Alex Tanguay in the final minute to protect a one-goal lead before Jordan Martinook hit the empty net with 15 seconds remaining.

"It was close. I think we had some good chances," said Colorado center Matt Duchene, who brought the Avalanche within 3-2 when he scored with 3:46 left to play. "I felt like everything they got, we gave them. It's tough to lose that one with as many good things as we did."

Cody McLeod also scored for Colorado. Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves for the Avalanche (4-8-1), who began a stretch during which they will play 12 of 15 games on the road.

Hanzal, who returned after missing two games with a lower-body injury, is tied for the NHL lead with 12 assists. He's never had more than 27 assists in a season, a feat he accomplished as a rookie in 2007-08. Playing between Tobias Rieder and Anthony Duclair (five goals each), Hanzal is piling up the assists but has yet to score a goal himself.

"He's easy to play with," Rieder said. "He knows me and [Duclair] pretty well. We try to use our speed as much as we can and he gives us the puck in the right spot. And on the forecheck, he's that big body out there winning battles and creating opportunities."

The Coyotes allowed three first-period goals in a 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in their last home game, and Colorado had the early momentum with seven early shots on Smith before Grossmann's first goal turned the tide.

After putting a shot toward the net from the right point, Grossmann got a second chance off a Rieder takeaway and wristed another shot from the same spot. Rookie Tyler Gaudet set a nice screen between two Colorado defenders and the puck skipped past Varlamov at 7:05.

"That goal kind of changed our game," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "We didn't keep the same pace that we should have. "

The Coyotes doubled the lead at 2:41 of the second period on another Avalanche turnover. Hanzal took the puck away from Colorado's Nikita Zadorov and pushed it toward Rieder outside the right circle. Rieder's snap shot hit Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog and dove down and under Varlamov.

Rieder's fifth goal of the season tied him with rookies Duclair and Max Domi for the team lead.

Colorado responded 1:07 later. Erik Johnson spilt Arizona defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Michael Stone and took a shot that Smith stopped. But the rebound came out to the high slot, where McLeod was waiting to pop in his second goal and make it a 2-1 game.

However, the Coyotes answered 1:28 later when Grossmann scored again.

Hanzal found Grossmann at the high point for a shot that Varlamov stopped and tried to flick away. But the puck ricocheted off Avalanche defenseman Ben Street, who came crashing into the crease with Coyotes forward Steve Downie. The puck slid across the goal line, and Grossmann was credited with the goal at 5:16.

Roy challenged the goal, which was upheld by review.

"I thought [Downie] pushed our forward into the goalie," Roy said. "Plus at first I thought the referee had the intention to blow the whistle before the puck went in. I guess it didn't work out."

Varlamov kept the game close with big saves on breakaways by Rieder and Boedker in the third period, before slipped around Hanzal and beat Smith by roofing a short-side wrist shot.

But Smith, who had allowed 25 goals on 169 shots in his past seven games, came up big late to keep out the equalizer.

"Mike was really good even though we put way too much pressure on him in that last five minutes," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "It's more than I'd like to see him work in that spot, but we'll take the two points."

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