Varmalov makes 23 saves in Avs' shutout of Predators
DENVER (AP) The Colorado Avalanche can't squander any more points if the hope to return to the postseason. Semyon Varlamov was the reason they picked up two against Nashville.
Varlamov made 23 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, and Colorado beat the Predators 3-0 on Friday night.
Jarome Iginla, Maxime Talbot, and Gabriel Landeskog had goals for the Avalanche, who earned an important win in their pursuit of a playoff berth.
Colorado is trying to stay in the thick of the race after a slow start to the season. The Avalanche are two points behind Calgary for the second wild-card position in the Western Conference but they have played one more game than the Flames.
''Every game right now is important, every point,'' Varlamov said after his 17th career shutout. ''Lots of teams battling for the playoffs. We have to be ready every night.''
Colorado improved to 8-3-3 in its last 14 games and has moved into fifth place in the Central Division. The Avalanche earned three of a possible four points against the division-leading Predators.
''We're focusing on the next game,'' Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. ''That's all.''
Nashville's Marek Mazanec made 25 saves in his first start of the season.
The Avalanche didn't capitalize on an early power play but scored 26 seconds after Nashville returned to full strength.
O'Reilly put a shot on goal from the half boards, and Nathan MacKinnon tried to stuff it past Mazanec. The puck leaked through to the front of the crease where Talbot flipped it into the open net at 13:49 of the first.
It was Talbot's fourth goal of the season.
Nashville had two good scoring chances in the second period. Gabriel Bourque had a breakaway, but the puck slipped off his stick before he could get off a shot.
Later in the period, rookie Filip Forsberg went in alone on Varlamov, but the goalie made the save to keep Colorado in the lead.
''We had a couple of chances, especially in the second period when we could have gotten it to 1-1,'' Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ''Filip hit a crossbar, and Bourque made a good move, but the puck just slipped off his stick. Maybe it's a different game at that point.''
Iginla scored an insurance goal at 5:54 of the third.
Colorado again couldn't convert on a power play, but just 6 seconds after it expired, Matt Duchene fed Iginla from behind the net. His one-timer beat Mazanec.
''I got a great pass from Dutch and a screen right in front from (Cody McLeod),'' Iginla said. ''I don't think the goalie saw it.''
Iginla has 60 points in 55 career games against the Predators.
''I guess against some teams you seem to get a few better bounces and have a bit more success,'' he said. ''Fortunately tonight it went in.''
Varlamov took care of the rest. It was his second shutout of the month, but this one came with less of an effort. He faced 54 shots in blanking Chicago on Jan. 6.
''Defensively, I thought we were sharp,'' Roy said. ''It's nice to give Varly a performance like this. I'm not saying it was an easy shutout, but it's nice for him to have an easier game where we don't give up that many shots and not many scoring chances. I hope we're going to do that all the time from now on.''
The Predators pulled Mazanec for an extra skater with 2:15 left, and Landeskog scored a minute later to seal the victory.
NOTES: MacKinnon had two assists. ... Iginla's goal was the 1,200th point of his career. ... Predators C Mike Ribero was ejected at 6:33 of the third. ... The Avalanche recalled D Stefan Elliott after D Erik Johnson had right knee surgery that will sideline him for 3-to-8 weeks. ... Nashville G Pekka Rinne is expected to miss up to three weeks because of a sprained knee.