The Colorado Avalanche are climbing the Western Conference standings because of strong goaltending and tight defense.
And on Friday, they also outskated and handled one of the NHL’s most skilled offensive teams.
Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves to earn his second shutout, and T.J. Galiardi had a goal and an assist to lead the Avalanche past the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 for their fourth straight win.
David Jones, David Van Der Gulik and Chuck Kobasew also scored for Colorado, which has won nine of its past 10.
”I thought Varly was solid all night long, but I thought we played a real sound game from start to finish,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. ”We were ready to play tonight, and when you’ve got a couple-goal lead in this league, it’s hard to come back on.
”But that team is very dangerous and we wanted to make sure we stayed with the game plan. We pretty much did that for the whole 60 minutes.”
Varlamov made a few sharp close-in saves, but wasn’t consistently tested by the Blackhawks in his sixth career shutout.
Chicago lost its third straight to match a season high for consecutive defeats, and has dropped four of its past five following a 9-1-1 run.
The Avalanche are playing well without forward Matt Duchene, who missed his third game with a knee injury.
”We really tried to get the puck in their end as much as we could to keep it away from their skilled forwards,” Galiardi said. ”And when we were in there, we played well.”
J.S. Giguere has been in goal most nights during the Avalanche’s run. But Varlamov was solid for a second straight game on Friday.
”Our goaltending has been unbelievable, so we wanted to help him out a little bit,” Galiardi said. ”Tonight was just a good night.”
The Blackhawks were flat and sloppy following a 5-4 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday, when they gave up a game-winning power-play goal with 33 seconds left in the game after erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period.
”We were a step behind the whole game,” Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. ”I don’t know why, especially in games like this when it’s back-to-back.
”For whatever reason tonight, it wasn’t very good.”
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was even more blunt.
”Tonight we didn’t deserve anything,” Quenneville said. ”We got what we deserved.
”I know we didn’t give up a lot of chances, but look at what we generated. We didn’t generate enough.”
Chicago’s Corey Crawford stopped 18 shots.
Three recent rookie call-ups – defenseman Dylan Olsen and forwards Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw – were in Chicago’s lineup.
Jones deflected in the only goal of the first with 7:03 left in the period.
Colorado’s Erik Johnson slid a shot from the right point through traffic and with Jones cutting in front of the net. The puck glanced off Jones’ stick and sailed into the upper right corner of the net.
Galiardi made it 2-0 at 1:47 of the second, just moments after Varlamov poke-checked the puck away from Chicago’s Patrick Sharp, who was in alone at the Colorado net.
Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy couldn’t control the puck deep in the Chicago zone, and it rolled to Paul Stastny deep on the left side. Stastny sent a pass across the crease to Galiardi, who sent it into a wide-open net.
Van Der Gulik extended Colorado’s lead to 3-0 at 8:40, five seconds after the Avalanche had killed a Chicago penalty.
Leddy’s weak pass along the backboards was picked off by rookie Gabriel Landeskog, who slipped it through traffic to Van Der Gulik in the slot.
Chicago’s Viktor Stalberg backhanded a shot off the post 5:47 into the third to cap a breakaway.
Varlamov made a point-blank glove save on Sharp about two minutes later.
Kobasew completed the scoring on a tip-in with 1:56 left.
Notes: Varlamov appeared in his 28th game, the most he has played in his four years in the NHL. … Van Der Gulik’s goal was his first this season and his second in the NHL. … Chicago LW Daniel Carcillo sat out his second game of a seven-game suspension for a hit on Edmonton D Tom Gilbert last Monday. Carcillo sustained a knee injury on the play and may miss more time than the suspension. … Chicago C Markus Kruger (concussion) missed his fifth game and D Steve Montador (upper body) missed his third. Both are on IR. … Leddy finished minus-4 in the game.