DENVER (AP) – Semyon Varlamov rescued Colorado’s struggling offense with a stellar performance against Montreal.
Varlamov made 43 saves for his first victory in more than a month and the Avalanche matched the franchise record of 10 straight home wins, beating the Canadiens 2-0 on Wednesday night.
Carl Soderberg and Alexander Kerfoot scored to help Colorado equal the longest home winning streak in franchise history, set in 1994-95 when the team was the Quebec Nordiques.
“It seems for us it’s harder to play the road these days,” Varlamov said. “We’ve got to play like that on the road trips.”
Antti Niemi stopped 23 shots for Montreal. The Canadiens are 8-17-1 on the road.
“We didn’t find a way to put the puck in the net,” forward Brendan Gallagher said.
Varlamov’s play had a lot to do with that problem. His last win came against Toronto on Dec. 29, and he left his next start against Winnipeg with a groin injury. He missed 10 games before returning against the Jets on Feb. 3.
Wednesday was his fourth game since coming back and one of his best this year. He denied the Canadiens on several chances in the third for his second shutout of the season.
“I didn’t love us tonight, but Varly comes up big and gets us a win,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “That’s what you need sometimes out of your goaltenders. He was really good, we get the win. That’s good; we needed the points.”
The Avalanche moved within two points of Minnesota for the second wild card in the Western Conference. They’re keeping pace without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon, who has missed seven games with a left shoulder injury.
Colorado has scored two or fewer goals in four of those games, including Wednesday night, but Varlamov made the two goals stand up. He was instrumental in Montreal going 0 for 4 on the power play, including 40 seconds with a two-man advantage in the second period.
“I thought our power play could have won us the game and they weren’t good tonight,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “Our (penalty kill) did a great job tonight but our PP wasn’t good enough. When you’re looking to score goals your PP has to come up big, especially when you have a 5-on-3.”
Colorado had more than two consecutive minutes of play in Montreal’s end early in the second period but didn’t score until Soderberg beat Niemi with a wraparound at 15:55.
With Montreal pressing for the equalizer late in the third, Kerfoot scored at 16:58 to give the Avalanche a two-goal cushion.
“I think I had the whole net there and it found a way to squeak in,” said Kerfoot, who has 14 goals in his rookie season. “It was good that we got one at the end there.”
NOTES: There was a moment of silence before the national anthems for the victims of the school shooting in Florida. … The Avalanche recalled Rocco Grimaldi from San Antonio of the AHL. MacKinnon, out since Jan. 30, was placed on injured reserve to make room for Grimaldi on the roster. … Montreal C Phillip Danault (concussion) is on the four-game trip but has not played since Jan. 13. … This was the 3,000th game in Quebec/Colorado franchise history, with 1,744 having been played since the team became the Avalanche in 1995. … Colorado LW Blake Comeau missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury.
Canadiens: At Arizona on Thursday night.
Avalanche: At Winnipeg on Friday night.
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