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Varlamov solid again, Avalanche defeat Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov didn't mind the extra workload he had to put into back-to-back games.

Varlamov made a season-high 42 saves against the St. Louis Blues in a 3-1 victory at Scottrade Center on Sunday.

In a span of less than 24 hours, Varlamov faced 79 shots and made 76 saves to help the Avalanche (14-16-1) win two Central Division games on the road. He made 34 saves on Saturday in a 3-2 victory at the Nashville Predators.

"It's good for the statistics," Varlamov said. "Lots of shots. I saw most of them, which is really important for me. They did a great job in front of me boxing out the players. That was the key for sure."

Jack Skille and John Mitchell scored goals 5:41 apart for the Avalanche in the first period to help back up Varlamov, who made 17 saves in the second period and 17 in the third.

"He was phenomenal," Mitchell said of Varlamov. "He was moving well, he was getting big, he was blocking everything he needed to, and he was catching everything he needed to. He certainly won us that game tonight."

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy agreed.

"He had a solid game last night in Nashville and he had another solid one tonight," Roy said. "He's a strong man and he's capable of taking a lot of shots and he was good tonight."

Carl Soderberg scored an empty-net goal with 21.8 seconds remaining for the Avalanche, who won four of their past five on the road and are 10-9-0 away from Pepsi Center.

"To me, it was the first period that was the key," Roy said. "I mean, both teams were on a back-to-back and we scored two goals in the first and we had plenty of other chances and I thought we had a strong first."

The Blues (17-10-4), who shut out the NHL-leading Dallas Stars on Saturday, got 15 saves from Jake Allen. The 43 shots were a season-high.

"They scored on their three chances they had in the first period, they scored two and we had five, six I guess," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Obviously the last two periods, the rink tilted. Missed opportunity. Disappointing."

The Avalanche took advantage of the six shots they took in the first period and scored twice.

Skille's third of the season came after a Petteri Lindbohm giveaway in the neutral zone when he got crossed up with defensive partner Kevin Shattenkirk, Mikhail Grigorenko picked the pass off and sent Skille in on Allen. Skille beat Allen with a wrist shot from the high slot 6:09 into the game to make it 1-0.

After Varlamov robbed Dmitrij Jaskin in tight, Mitchell made it 2-0 for Colorado after he was able to jam a puck past Allen from in tight on a behind-the-net feed from Alex Tanguay at 11:50. The goal came 38 seconds after Varlamov's save on Jaskin.

"We had a lot of momentum there in the first period," Mitchell said. "To be able to get the two goals and early lead, that certainly helps, but they certainly brought it the second half of that game. We were kind of on our heels and [Varlamov] came up real big for us."

Allen, who came into the game with 48 saves on 49 shots the past two starts (including a 26-save shutout Saturday), gave up two goals on the first five shots.

Tarasenko's 18th of the season put the Blues on the board with a power-play goal, ending Colorado's string of 16 straight penalty kills. He followed up Shattenkirk's drive from the point with a rebound at 12:55 of the third, but the Blues could not score the tying goal.

The Blues outshot the Avalanche 35-12 over the final two periods and felt they had chances, but couldn't solve Varlamov.

"I think it's one of those games when you're down 2-0 and you just start pouring it on and they sat back a little bit and we took it to them," Blues center Paul Stastny said. "That's what happens when you're down two goals and the other team's up two goals. For us, it's more about the way we started that game. Both teams are coming off back-to-backs. We almost had to try and find a way to get that first one and then play our game the way we wanted to, but we got behind early and that first period wasn't our best until we were down 2-0, which can't happen when we're at home."

Colorado wraps up its three-game trip Tuesday at the Chicago Blackhawks; it will conclude a stretch of 18 of 25 games on the road.

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