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Varlamov, Duchene lift Avalanche past Rangers

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Gabriel Landeskog called it a "mature game" from the Colorado Avalanche, who have won two games in a row, which is important for a team that is looking to rebound from an inconsistent first quarter of the season.

Matt Duchene stayed hot, Chris Wagner chipped in with a goal, Semyon Varlamov made 24 saves in a strong start, and overall the Avalanche played a sound, structured, defensive game to defeat the New York Rangers 2-1 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Colorado (11-14-1) has won back-to-back road games by 2-1 scores after starting its current four-game road trip with a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. It finishes the trip Saturday against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

The Avalanche won despite a season-low 18 shots on goal. Their previous low was 22 on Oct. 14, when they lost 6-2 to the Boston Bruins.

"It shows us we can win all types [of games]," Duchene said. "We know we can win the 6-5s, the 5-3s, the 5-4s; we have enough offense to do that. But it's been those one-goal games we've had trouble with."

Colorado had won two of 10 one-goal games prior to winning 2-1 against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. The Avalanche already have two losses this season when leading after two periods. No other team in the NHL has that many; Sixteen teams don't have any. The Avalanche are 3-2-1 in games that are tied after two periods.

"We've had a lot of really good games where we deserved to win and we didn't," Duchene said. "It's nice to start getting rewarded. Our record could easily be flipped, that's the frustrating part. But we're staying positive."

The Rangers (17-7-3) lost for the fifth time in six games (1-4-1) since their 13-1-2 stretch from Oct. 18-Nov. 23.

Goalie Antti Raanta made 16 saves. He had allowed seven goals in his first five starts. After starting his career 17-0-3 in his career at home, Raanta lost for the second straight time on home ice.

"Give credit to Colorado, they came in here and played a real structured game that made it challenging to get through the neutral zone," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "So what needs to happen in a game like this, you can score early and you have the possibility of making them open it up a little bit."

The Rangers didn't score until Oscar Lindberg's 6-on-5 goal with 49.5 seconds remaining in the third period. They allowed only three shots on goal in the first period, but had just four.

Duchene and Wagner scored on consecutive shots separated by 4:16 in the second period to give the Avalanche a 2-0 lead.

The Rangers had 13 shots on goal in the second period and eight more in the third, but Grade A scoring chances were hard to come by with the way the Avalanche were defending.

"We spent a lot of time in their end but didn't get a lot of shots or opportunities for it," Vigneault said. "Then, in the second they got those two quick goals and they clogged it up."

Varlamov, who allowed 10 goals in his previous three appearances, got the start despite watching Reto Berra make 27 saves in New Jersey. Colorado coach Patrick Roy said he went back to Varlamov because he wanted to instill confidence in his No. 1 goalie.

It worked. Varlamov feels his confidence spread to the rest of the team.

"If you're a goalie and you're not confident the team will feel that and the team will play uncomfortable," Varlamov said. "It's big for the group to go out there and play every game with confidence in the goalie. That's what they want from me."

No Avalanche player appears to have more confidence right now than Duchene, who scored his 13th goal in the past 15 games after scoring one goal in his first 11 games of the season.

Duchene scored off a 2-on-1 at 17:37 which Landeskog created off a turnover by Rangers center Kevin Hayes at the Avalanche blue line.

"I wanted the puck, absolutely," Duchene said.

He got it after Colorado center Carl Soderberg forced the turnover and Rangers defenseman Dylan McIlrath was caught trying to defend the 2-on-1. Landeskog delivered a perfect pass out of McIlrath's reach to Duchene for a far side shot from the right circle past Raanta.

"[Duchene] was wide open and the way he is shooting the puck right now, the way he is playing, I figured I'd just slide it over to him and he'd do the rest from there," Landeskog said. "He's hot."

Wagner gave Colorado a 1-0 lead by scoring off the rush from the right circle at 13:21 of the second.

"Early in the season for some reason we were finding ways to lose those games, and right now we're finding ways to win those hockey games," Roy said. "I just feel that we're managing our game better and better."


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