Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Duchene hurt as Avs clinch playoff spot

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche were planning trips to Las Vegas a year ago. This spring, they're ready for bonus hockey.

Goaltender Semyon Varlamov stopped a season-high 47 shots and the Avalanche clinched a playoff berth for the first time in four years with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.

Center John Mitchell had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, which moved into second place in the Central Division in what may have been a costly victory for the playoff-bound team.

The Avalanche lost center Matt Duchene on the first shift because of a left knee injury. He was hurt when he collided with teammate Jamie McGinn near the Sharks blueline and limped to the bench.

"He should have an MRI tomorrow morning," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "We'll know more after that. It's not good news for him and it's not good news for us, as well. It's the way it's been all year."

Duchene's injury was a cloud over the playoff celebration, but it didn't damper the expectations.

Despite being one of the surprise teams in the NHL this season, simply being in the playoffs isn't enough for Colorado.

"We're certainly not satisfied with just squeaking into the playoffs, we want to do damage," captain Gabe Landeskog said.

How much damage could depend on the prognosis for Duchene. The team's leading scorer with 70 points, Duchene helped the Avalanche reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010, his rookie season.

He won a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics last month and has four goals and 16 assists since the NHL resumed the season after the Olympic break.

"It's a significant loss for our team if he's out for an extended period of time, but we've had injuries during the year and we've had plenty of guys come in and step up and fill in roles, and we've done OK," Mitchell said. "That's going to have to happen again, I guess."

It was a tough blow for a team that has already lost two of its top six forwards for the regular season. Left winger Alex Tanguay had hip surgery in February and right winger P.A. Parenteau sustained a knee injury three weeks ago.

Center Paul Stastny and left winger Cody McLeod also scored for Colorado, which topped 100 points for the first time since the 2003-014 season.

The Avalanche has a one-point lead on Chicago and a game in hand on the defending Stanley Cup champions with home ice in the balance for the first round of the playoffs.

"Who would have thought, eh? It's pretty impressive for our group," Roy said. "We have eight games left and they have seven. That will be interesting to see how things are going to go to the end."

Varlamov made up for Duchene's absence with another strong performance. He stopped 20 shots in the third period, when San Jose was trying to get the equalizer.

"He's been tremendous," Landeskog said. "I think it's safe to say we wouldn't be here without him."

The Sharks agreed.

"I'm guessing he was the first star," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "He should be."

Center Joe Pavelski and defenseman Dan Boyle scored for the Sharks, who are 1-2-2 in their last five games but still hold a slim lead for first place in the Pacific over Anaheim.

Goalie Alex Stalock had 19 saves for San Jose.

The Sharks trailed, 2-1, after the first but dominated the second period, outshooting Colorado, 11-3.

However, it was the Avalanche that struck first when Mitchell scored on the power-play at 6:32 of the period. Boyle made it 3-2 with his 10th goal 2:03 after Mitchell scored.

San Jose got a power play midway through the third when center Ryan O'Reilly was called for his first penalty of the season, but the Sharks could not get the equalizer.

"We had 50 shots; we had a lot of sustained zone time against them," Boyle said. "We had plenty of opportunities to score more than we did, and we didn't.

"At the end of the day, it's about two points, and we didn't get them."

The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead 1:33 into the game on Stastny's 26th goal of season. The Sharks tied it when Pavelski scored on the power play less than two minutes later. It was Pavelski's 38th of the season.

McLeod gave Colorado the lead again with a shorthanded goal midway through the first.

NOTES: Avalanche LW Jamie McGinn played two days after taking a shot off his foot in a victory over Vancouver. He skipped Friday's practice to rest. ... San Jose reassigned F Freddie Hamilton to Worcester of the American Hockey League. He was recalled Thursday but was a healthy scratch against Winnipeg. ... Colorado C John Mitchell returned to the lineup after missing four games because of a back injury. Mitchell was hurt when he slammed into the boards in Montreal. ... The Sharks have allowed five shorthanded goals this season. Colorado has scored three.

Instantly join a new league.

League type:
Free Yahoo League
League size:
10 players
Draft time:
Sep 5 9:00 am
View Comments (0)