Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, makes a stick save of a shot against the Arizona Coyotes in the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, March 7, 2016, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski
March 08, 2016

DENVER (AP) Semyon Varlamov came back to form when the Colorado Avalanche needed it most.

Varlamov had 37 saves in his return to the crease, Matt Duchene and Mikhail Grigorenko had a goal and an assist each and the Avalanche beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Monday night.

Shawn Matthias also scored for the Avalanche, who are tied with Minnesota for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Both teams have 72 points, but the Wild have played one fewer game.

''We bent but we didn't break and Varly was great for us when we needed him,'' Duchene said.

Boyd Gordon scored and Louis Domingue had 34 saves for Arizona.

Varlamov served as the backup for two games after he struggled in losses to Detroit and Minnesota last week. He was pulled from a 6-3 loss to the Wild after allowing three goals on 12 first-period shots.

Varlamov was much sharper against Arizona. In the first period, he stopped Antoine Vermette on a shot close in, and in the second period he made another save on a breakaway.

''I've been waiting for this game and working really hard to prepare myself mentally and physically,'' Varlamov said. ''The team is depending on me and (Calvin Pickard) right now to come up with the big saves when we need them.''

The Coyotes have lost nine straight on the road and eight of nine overall to fall out of the Western Conference playoff chase. They are 10 points behind Minnesota and Colorado with a game in hand on the Wild.

''When you're not getting rewarded for your effort that's where the little bit of frustration comes in,'' Arizona coach Dave Tippett said.

Matthias gave Colorado a 1-0 lead at 9:17 of the first when he knocked in Francois Beauchemin's rebound. The puck bounced off defenseman Nicklas Grossmann's stick and over Domingue's shoulder before Matthias lunged to put it in.

''I was going to catch it. Then it unfortunately hit Grossie's stick in front of the net, then hit my shoulder and they put it in after,'' Domingue said. ''It was just a lucky bounce.''

Duchene made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 5:40 of the second period. It was his career-high 28th goal.

Grigorenko gave Colorado a 3-0 lead with a backhander at 5:37 of the third period. Gordon, who was playing his second game after missing 13 with an injury, spoiled the shutout with his first goal of the season at 8:47.

Tippett said there should have been a high-sticking call on Jarome Iginla moments before Grigorenko's goal. Iginla's stick came up and hit Kevin Connauton in the face but play continued.

The disappointing thing for me is their third goal, we should be on a 4-minute power play with a high stick,'' he said. ''It's missed and it's in the back of our net. That's the frustrating thing. It's a blatant high stick, it's not even close.''

Domingue came off for an extra skater with 2:03 remaining and the Coyotes went on the power play with 1:34 left but couldn't score.

It was Colorado's 19th straight penalty kill.

NOTES: Arizona D Oliver Ekman-Larsson left the game early in the third period and didn't return. Tippett said he is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. ... Coyotes C Kyle Chipchura went home to be with his wife, who is due to give birth. ... Avalanche D Eric Gelinas returned to the lineup after missing two games with a back injury. ... Arizona LW Max Domi returned after serving a one-game suspension for instigating a fight in the final 5 minutes against Anaheim on Thursday.

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