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Varlamov, Avalanche top Oilers for fifth straight win

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- Semyon Varlamov made 39 saves and the Colorado Avalanche used a balanced attack to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 5-1 at Pepsi Center on Saturday for their fifth consecutive win.

Blake Comeau, Tyson Barrie, Nick Holden, Jarome Iginla and Jack Skille scored for the Avalanche (17-16-1) who moved above .500 for the first time this season and remained three points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

"We managed to win and I thought we did a lot of good things out there, regardless of the fact that they outshot us [40-29],” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "I'd like to cut down on the shots against, no doubt about it. But this is a team that puts a lot of pucks at the net.

"If someone had to said to me at this point we'd be one game over .500, it's not that I wouldn't believe it, but at the same time we've had a tough schedule and our players deserve a lot of credit, and it's nice to see them rewarded. They work hard and they believe in themselves. I am very proud of our players."

The Oilers (14-18-2) finished a four-game road trip with a 1-3-0 record. They have lost three in a row after a six-game winning streak.

"Varlamov at the other end played well all night," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "We probably had enough offense to be in a game. When the forwards were trying to finish around the net, we didn’t get pucks up on him at all in and around the blue paint. He was there the whole night, right to the bitter end, and he made some tremendous saves.

"Are we expecting to score six on him? Not a chance. Even on his bad nights we’re not getting six on him. We gave up way too many to have a win. It was a 5-1 game at the end of the night. It could have been a 6- or 7-1 game. It also could have been a 7-6 game. Varlamov played well to keep his number at one; we played loose and poor enough to elevate our number to five."

Andrej Sekera took a drop pass from Taylor Hall and fired a shot from the high slot that hit the bottom of the crossbar and went into the net at 2:58 of the third period to cut the Oilers’ deficit to 3-1.

But the Avalanche responded at 7:05 when Alex Tanguay set up Iginla for a point-blank shot past goalie Anders Nilsson to make it 4-1. Iginla, who had gone nine games without a point, has 598 NHL goals.

"It was a great play by Tangs, he stole it at the wall," Iginla said. "When he passed it out, I thought I just turned a little too quickly. But I was alone in front and I almost had too much time to think about it. I tried to hesitate for a quick 5-hole and it went in. It was good to see one finally go in. It was nice to kind of kill their momentum."

Skille closed out the scoring with a shot from the right circle past Nilsson at 16:31.

Varlamov, who has won six games in a row, made 14 saves in the second period, including a right pad stop against Hall with 1.2 seconds left to preserve Colorado's 3-0 lead.

The Avalanche took advantage of special-teams play to grab a 2-0 lead in the first period, with a shorthanded goal by Comeau and a power-play goal by Barrie.

Holden made it 3-0 at 14:26 of the second period. John Mitchell won a faceoff in the left circle, drawing the puck back to Holden for a shot through traffic that went past Nilsson (24 saves).

Comeau scored on a first-period breakaway off a Carl Soderberg pass, whipping the puck past Nilsson's glove at 1:12 after the Avalanche were penalized for having too many men on the ice. The goal was Colorado's third of the season while shorthanded and the first such goal allowed by Edmonton.

"I wasn't quite sure how much time, how much room I had," Comeau said. "When [the puck] was rolling I was just trying to get it to settle down as fast as I could. I think a big thing for me on a breakaway is to try and get a quick release and try to surprise the goalie, and I did that tonight.

"There's a different feeling in the locker room. I feel that we're going into every game confident, knowing that we can win any game against any team on any night. [Varlamov] has been playing outstanding and we have a more balanced scoring attack. We have to keep at it. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of points to gain back."

Barrie's goal came at 16:49 with Pouliot in the penalty box for concealing the puck. Nathan MacKinnon was in the right circle when he passed to Barrie for a long shot. The puck flew past Nilsson's glove after sailing past the raised sticks of Colorado's Matt Duchene and Sekera.

The Avalanche began the game in 0-for-8 and 1-for-26 slumps on the power play.

Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson needed help getting to the locker room after Comeau knocked him down at 6:25 of the third period with what appeared to be a cross-check to the chest. McLellan said Davidson has a rib injury.

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