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Toews scores in OT, Blackhawks top Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Chicago Blackhawks' strategy in overtime is pretty simple: Get the puck to Jonathan Toews.

The Chicago captain scored on a power play with 1:31 remaining in the extra period to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

"He's clutch," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after Toews beat goalie Semyon Varlamov from the right side after Colorado was called for too many men on the ice. "It was a great move too. Taking it to the net with quickness, great shot. You look at all his goals in overtime, they're pretty exciting to watch because there's a lot of skill involved."

Toews has six game-winning goals this season, including four in overtime, which is a Blackhawks record.

The win, which gave Chicago (22-13-4) a sweep of its two-game road trip, ended Varlamov's winning streak against them at eight games.

"It's nice to get that one off our back and maybe have a little more confidence going down the end with this team," Quenneville said.

Toews credited Patrick Kane (one goal, two assists) with creating space for him on the 4-on-3 power play.

"The (defenseman) got up on him, so I got in behind him on the goal line and was able to get a chance on the short side," Toews said. "We needed that one. We played pretty good tonight. That team plays really well here (against the Blackhawks). We didn't have the effort we needed at home against Colorado, so we returned the favor and got a big one tonight."

Varlamov had 29 saves in the Avalanche's 3-0 win in Chicago on Dec. 15, when they ended Kane's scoring streak at 26 games.

"I thought we played great," Quenneville said. "We gave up some stuff, but I thought we did some good things and generated some dangerous opportunities. We were much better than the last time we saw them."

The Avalanche (18-17-3) rallied from down 3-1 in the second period and sent the game to overtime when Erik Johnson tied it with 4:55 left in third after they killed off back-to-back penalties.

Johnson skated into the Chicago zone after taking a return pass from Matt Duchene, moved into the right circle and beat goalie Scott Darling (27 saves) to the far side.

"I hadn't rushed the puck too much tonight," Johnson said. "I had a little bit of gas, saw a lane and just weaved my way through traffic. I was shooting to score, shot it along the ice at his pads and tried to fool him. If it doesn't go in, you get a rebound. Fortunately, it went in and we'll take the one point. Disappointing not to get two, but it's better than nothing."

The Avalanche felt fortunate to get a point, especially after being outplayed so badly in the second period, when they were outshot 17-5. Varlamov made 39 saves.

"The second period, we were horrible," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "They dominated us. It was pretty simple; if it was not for Varly in the second period, it could have been a 6-2 game. Good for us to have at least a point tonight, but we didn't deserve it. It was their game, they outplayed us."

The Blackhawks are 8-4 in overtime this season; the Avalanche are 1-3. Colorado practiced 3-on-3 play Wednesday for one of the few times this season.

"Should have practiced my line change," Roy said.

Colorado's Jarome Iginla, who needs one goal for 600 in his NHL career, had three shots on goal in 17:57 of ice time.

Andrew Desjardins and Kane scored 2:13 apart early in the second period to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead.

Desjardins, who had one goal in his first 32 games, scored his third in the past two games at 2:07 of the second to break a 1-1 tie. Teuvo Teravainen took a shot from the right circle, and Desjardins deflected it past Varlamov.

It was Kane's turn at 4:20. With the Avalanche's Blake Comeau off for tripping, Artemi Panarin slid a cross-ice pass to Kane, who had a step on Johnson while skating down the left wing. Kane ripped a shot inside the near post for his 23rd goal.

The Avalanche made it 3-2 at 11:32 on a goal by Cody McLeod, who took a shot from the high slot that seemed to surprise Darling and beat him to the glove side.

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead at 4:04 of the first period on a power-play goal by Carl Soderberg with Trevor van Riemsdyk serving a hooking penalty. Colorado has scored a power-play goal in five consecutive games.

The Blackhawks tied the game at 18:32 on a goal by Artem Anisimov, his second in as many games. Anisimov completed a pretty passing play with Kane and Panarin, beating Varlamov from low in the left circle.

Tyson Barrie, the Avalanche's top-scoring defenseman with 23 points, didn't dress because of flu-like symptoms. He was replaced by Nate Guenin, who was a healthy scratch the previous two games.

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