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Varlamov, Avalanche defeat Oilers in shootout

by Rick Sadowski /

DENVER -- It took a shootout, but the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 for their second consecutive win at Pepsi Center on Friday.

"It's great to start the new year with a big win, and we want to roll through January here," said Avalanche center Matt Duchene, who set up Daniel Briere for a goal in the second period and scored against Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens in the second round of the tiebreaker.

"That's a game maybe last year we lose because we were so used to scoring so many goals," Duchene continued. "This year, because we haven't scored as much, we've had to be patient. I think that experience from this year helped us tonight."

The Avalanche (15-15-8) have gone 6-2-2 in their past 10 games and close out a three-game homestand Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was a tough loss for the Oilers (8-22-9), who outshot the Avalanche 12-3 in the third period and tied the game at 4:47 on a power-play goal by Benoit Pouliot, who missed the previous 18 games recovering from a broken foot.

The Oilers are a combined 1-9 in overtime and shootouts. The Avalanche have won five consecutive shootouts after losing their first two.

"I thought our overtime period was a lot better than we've seen in the past," Oilers coach Todd Nelson said. "We had puck control, we had some good, quality chances, but we have to shoot the puck in those situations. We had some Grade A chances that we tried to move it with one more pass. If we shoot the puck more, I think we get rewarded."

Edmonton's best chance in overtime came on a 2-on-1 rush in the opening minute when Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov made a save against Taylor Hall. Varlamov and Scrivens each made 27 saves through the extra period.

Scrivens gloved Nathan MacKinnon's shot in the first round of the shootout, but Duchene slid the puck by his right pad in the second round and Alex Tanguay shot over him in the third.

"I don't like the shootouts; there's so much pressure on the goalies," said Varlamov, who forced Derek Roy to shoot wide in the first round and made a pad save against Jordan Eberle in the second. "When the boys are scoring, I'm pretty successful. It gives you lots of confidence. When the guys score, you want to stop the puck really bad."

Varlamov is 20-13 in his career in shootouts, and the win was his 85th with the Avalanche, moving him past Stephane Fiset for sole possession of fifth place in Quebec Nordiques/Colorado franchise history.

Duchene and Tanguay waited for Scrivens to make the first move before they took their shots. Scrivens and Duchene know each other pretty well, having spent time at a camp last summer in Vail, Colo.

"We both have a book on each other," Scrivens said. "His book is thicker. It's tough when they come in so slow. It's not a game situation, where they have back pressure. Generally we played a solid game."

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead at 7:55 of the second period on the goal by Briere, his first in 13 games since he scored Dec. 1 against the Montreal Canadiens.

Duchene came from behind the net and passed through the slot to Briere at the bottom of the right circle for a shot into a half-open net.

"That's the luxury of playing with a player like Matt Duchene," Briere said. "What I was telling myself before the game was, 'Try to find the open areas around the net.' He's so crafty, so strong on the puck around the net, behind the net, all I was trying to do was get open for him. It was all his play. That was probably the easiest goal I've ever had to score."

Varlamov didn't have to make many difficult saves in the first two periods, when the Avalanche outshot the Oilers 22-14, but that wasn't the case in the third when Edmonton changed the momentum with back-to-back power plays in the first four minutes.

"We just took it to them," Pouliot said. "They had a 1-0 lead, and then they kind of sat back. We used our speed, we used our strength, and we got on the forecheck pretty hard. We turned the puck over in their zone and we created a lot of chances. We just didn't score as many as we wanted to."

Pouliot tied the game on the second power play of the period when he knocked his own rebound into the net.

"He made an impact for us," Nelson said of Pouliot, who played 13:49 and had three shots on goal. "He played a simple, solid game and capitalized on the goal obviously. This is kind of a tough spot for him, coming back here. It's hard to breathe (with the altitude), but he had short shifts."

Teddy Purcell shot the puck off the post at 10:16 of the third with the Oilers pressing for the go-ahead goal. Edmonton took the first 11 shots before Scrivens was forced to make a save at 12:45.

"I thought we could have been up by two or three goals after the second period," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We had plenty of good chances. We missed good opportunities and I just feel we're a little tight around the net."

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