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LaBarbera stops 33 shots as Coyotes blank Avs 2-0

by Rick Sadowski
DENVER Jason LaBarbera looked more like a Vezina Trophy candidate than a little-used backup Thursday night.

The 30-year-old Phoenix Coyotes goalie, starting because Ilya Bryzgalov was tending to a medical-related family situation, stopped all 34 shots he faced in a workmanlike 2-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

Taylor Pyatt scored both goals, including an empty-netter with 19.2 seconds to play.

LaBarbera, who earned his second shutout of the season and sixth of his NHL career, didn't even know he would start until arriving at the arena in the morning.

"It was a surprise start for me," he said. "I knew I would have to come in with a good effort and hopefully give the guys a spark."

LaBarbera certainly did that in a solid rebound game after playing poorly on Sunday in a 6-5 overtime loss in Minnesota.

"Last game in Minnesota wasn't a good one for myself," he said. "I kind of thought I let the team down. I wanted to bounce back from a poor effort. The guys helped me out a lot, but any time you can play like that and give the guys a real good chance to win, you feel good.

"If you look at (the Colorado) lineup, there's a lot of young skill over there. They've been lighting the league up this year."

The Avs began the night as the league's fourth-highest scoring team, averaging 3.32 goals per game, but have totaled just 14 goals and been shut out twice while going 2-5-1 in their past eight games.

Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson had 32 saves before heading to the bench for a sixth attacker in the final minute.

"Andy played unbelievable. Your goalie gives up one goal every game, I think you'd take that in a heartbeat," said center Paul Stastny, who had three shots on goal after missing Tuesday's 4-3 overtime win against Buffalo because of flu-like symptoms. "Obviously if you don't score, you're not going to find a way to win. Hats off to them, but our offense needs to get a couple of goals at some point to give us a chance to win."

Pyatt scored the only goal the Coyotes would need at 9:35 of the first period when he knocked a juicy rebound past Anderson's glove after Vernon Fiddler ripped a shot from the left circle.

"It was just a good forecheck by our line," said Pyatt, who skated with Fiddler and Lee Stempniak. "We got the puck deep to the front of the net and I was able to get a screen and track down the rebound. I was able to lift it up to the top of the net with my backhand."

LaBarbera, who came into the game with a 3.46 goals-against average, made a couple of big saves among his 15 first-period stops, turning aside Brandon Yip from point-blank range and David Jones breaking in alone.

LaBarbera also made a left skate save against Milan Hejduk on a 2-on-1 rush in the opening minute of the second period, and made big saves on Philippe Dupuis and Greg Mauldin in the third during the Coyotes' only power play.

"I needed to make big saves at key times, and we did a really good job in not giving up a whole lot on the rush," LaBarbera said. "There's a lot of skill there and they create a lot off the rush. We did a good job of not turning pucks over in the neutral zone and our forwards did a good job of backchecking. That makes my job easier when they do that."

The Avalanche managed one shot on goal on their lone power play, which came in the second period, against a Coyotes team that allowed four goals in seven shorthanded situations in the previous four games.

Colorado has gone 1-for-15 on power plays in the past five games and is 3-for-28 covering seven games.

It was Anderson's best performance in some time, yet he suffered his fifth loss in his past six decisions.

"It was one of those nights where I had to be better than the other guy, and I wasn't," he said. "I have to be tough on myself. Statistically it looks like I played well, but that one goal was the difference and my job is to be a difference maker and give the team a chance to win and to steal a game for the guys."

The Coyotes have won two games in a row for the first time since putting together a seven-game winning streak in November.

The Avalanche has gone 1-4-1 in its past six games at home and hasn't won in regulation since a 3-2 victory against Montreal on Dec. 19 that capped a six-game winning streak.

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