DENVER – Matt Duchene’s strong start has been mirrored by his team.
Duchene scored two goals and had an assist, helping the Colorado Avalanche beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 on Friday night to match the best 10-game start in team history.
“It’s special, going from where we’ve gone the last year,” Duchene said, recalling the Avalanche’s 15th-place finish in the Western Conference last season. “It feels great to be 9-1, the best team in the league.
“But you can’t be satisfied. We know how fast that can turn. We’ve been there before early in seasons and really slowed down going down the stretch. So we’ve got to keep on moving the way we are.”
Erik Johnson and Alex Tanguay also scored for the Avalanche, who topped Carolina at home for the ninth straight time. Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves in the win.
“I think it’s a new attitude,” said forward Paul Stastny, crediting much of the turnaround to the influence of first-year coach Patrick Roy. “Obviously, we’ve had the goaltending and we have a lot of depth. I think we’re all playing together and sacrificing for each other.
“We’re doing the little things right, and you do that over the course of 60 minutes, over the course of a season, and the puck is going to bounce your way.”
Carolina, which got goals from Drayson Bowman and Andrej Sekera, came into the game scrambling at the goalie position.
Justin Peters, recalled from Charlotte of the AHL earlier this month, made his first start of the season because of injuries to the Hurricanes’ top two goalies and stopped 30 shots.
“He’s battling in there,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. “A couple of those plays were odd-number situations, two on one. Guys losing their assignments put him in a vulnerable spot.”
Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward left Thursday’s game at Minnesota in the first period with a lower-body injury, and Anton Khudobin has missed five games, also with a lower-body injury that has landed him on the injured list.
Carolina recalled Mike Murphy from Charlotte on an emergency basis as an additional backup before the game.
The Avalanche were on the power play when Duchene wristed a shot from between the circles into the net for his second goal of the night and his team-high eighth overall. That gave Colorado a 4-1 lead 36 seconds into the third.
Carolina fought back with a goal by Sekera at 2:40. The Hurricanes had a chance to get even closer when they were on the power play midway through the period, but were turned away by Varlamov, who made consecutive saves. He stopped a shot from point-blank range by Alexander Semin.
Colorado pressured the Hurricanes in their zone from the outset, taking a 2-0 lead while putting up 18 shots to Carolina’s eight in the first period.
“They came out ready to play,” Peters said. “We knew they were going to come out ready. They have a great atmosphere here and have a great record at home. They had some chances, got some bounces there. They’re real quick. All their guys can skate real well. They’re fast, they’re hungry. They really battle hard on pucks as a team. When you have that skill level and confidence, it goes a long way.”
Johnson finished a 3-on-2 rush at 11:30 of the first by knocking the puck off his skate past Peters. Duchene scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season six minutes later, coming around the back of the net and wristing a shot that trickled in off Peters’ right leg.
Carolina pulled within 2-1 when Bowman, off a centring pass from Jordan Staal, one-timed a shot from the right circle that got past Varlamov.
But the Avalanche regained a two-goal advantage at 10:11 of the second. Duchene sent a pass toward the slot where the streaking Tanguay picked it up and wristed it into the net for his third goal.
NOTES: Carolina’s Radek Dvorak didn’t return after leaving the game in the second period with a lower-body injury. … Carolina’s Tim Gleason played in his 600th NHL game. … The Avs, who matched their best 10-game start, play six of their next seven at home. … Carolina last won a game at Colorado in 1996 when they were the Hartford Whalers.