DENVER (AP) – With the core of Colorado’s scoring attack sidelined, backup goalie Jonathan Bernier put together a stifling performance.
Gabriel Bourque and Tyson Jost scored 2:14 apart in the second period, Bernier stopped 39 shots and the Avalanche beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Bernier was solid once again in place of starter Semyon Varlamov, who missed 11 games with a groin injury before returning to the crease Saturday. For the second time in 2 1/2 weeks, his backup delivered a gem at the expense of the Sharks.
“Bernier would be making $20 million a year if he played us every night,” said San Jose coach Peter DeBoer, whose team lost 5-3 to the Avalanche on Jan. 18 in large part because of 45 saves by Bernier. “He’s been unbelievable against us.”
Colorado returned from a six-game road trip and won its ninth straight at the Pepsi Center, the club’s longest home winning streak since moving to Denver in 1995. The Avalanche are 19-7-1 at home this season and one point out of the second wild card in the Western Conference.
“We’ve had some success at home,” Bernier said, “but we have to get that success on the road if we want to be a good team and to make the playoffs.”
They’ll have to find some more offense, too.
Colorado struggled to generate many chances without Nathan MacKinnon (left shoulder) and Mikko Rantanen (lower body), the team’s top two scorers. In their absence, the Avalanche were outshot 39-20.
“We lost two of our best players on our team, one of the best players in the NHL right now (in MacKinnon),” Jost said. “Guys have to step up.”
The Sharks pulled goalie Martin Jones in the final minute and had a flurry of chances to tie it, but J.T. Compher iced the game with an empty-net goal with three seconds remaining.
Jones stopped 17 shots for the Sharks, who have won just twice in their last seven games. Joel Ward scored his first goal since Nov. 22.
“Yeah, their goalie played well,” San Jose center Logan Couture said. “It was tough to get one, and obviously we didn’t get two.”
San Jose had 16 of the first 20 shots but found itself down 2-0 early in the second.
Bourque opened the scoring 2:31 into the period after the Sharks turned the puck over in their own zone. Jost took control and pushed it ahead to Compher, who slid an expert pass along the crease to Bourque for his third goal of the season.
The Avalanche added to it as they connected on two long passes to set up Jost. The 19-year-old split two defenders just in front of the blue line and beat Jones’ glove for his fourth of the season.
Ward cut the deficit to 2-1 with 6:31 left in the period after scoring on a rebound. The goal was originally waved off, but video replay showed the puck snuck just inside.
The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 26-10 through two periods.
“Berns was good,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “He gave us a chance.”
NOTES: C Joe Thornton missed his sixth straight game and is expected to be out several weeks for San Jose. … Jost and Compher each had a goal and an assist. … MacKinnon is expected be out two to four weeks, while Rantanen missed his first game of the season. … The Avalanche are in the midst of playing 13 of 16 games away from home.
Sharks: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.
Avalanche: Start a three-game road swing at the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
By BRENT W. NEW, Associated Press
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