Avalanche seek to aim home drought vs. Flames (Dec 27, 2016)

BY AP • December 26, 2016

A disappointing month for the Colorado Avalanche ended with a surprising win over one of the best teams in the NHL.

Colorado went into Chicago before the Christmas break and stunned the Blackhawks with a 2-1 overtime win Friday night. It was stunning because the Avalanche had lost five straight and suffered a 6-0 loss at home to Toronto 24 hours earlier.

Instead of folding -- again -- they played one of their best games of the season to earn some good cheer before the NHL's three-day break.

"Gutsy effort by us," center Matt Duchene told The Denver Post after Friday's win. "We're going to enjoy this one over Christmas break, but we're nowhere near where we want to be."

For the good feelings to continue, Colorado (12-20-1) has to end its eight-game winless streak at home against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night in Denver. The Flames (18-16-2) are coming off a 4-1 win against Vancouver on Friday. Mark Giordano had two goals in the win to give Calgary a reason to enjoy the three-day break.

"It makes life a little easier when you win your last game," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan told NHL.com after Friday's win. "Whether it's when you get a day off or a nice Christmas break and you get three (points). It's always good to get those points and enjoy some time with your family with a little bit of pressure off."

The Flames are feeling good for more than just Friday's win. Johnny Gaudreau missed three weeks with a broken finger before returning Dec. 4, much earlier than expected. He hit the ice running, registering four straight multi-point games when he got back and points in seven straight games.

The Avalanche haven't received that kind of production from anyone of late. Their last home win came Nov. 14 against the Los Angeles Kings and since then they've gone 0-7-1 at Pepsi Center. The loss to the Maple Leafs had Nathan MacKinnon wondering if the team even belonged in the NHL, but the win in Chicago gave Colorado a little relief from its misery that included a scoring drought of 167 minutes, 43 seconds -- a franchise record.

The players know that one win doesn't cure all the ills, but it's a start.

"Obviously, we can't do anything about what's happened up to this point and what we've not produced," captain Gabriel Landeskog told The Denver Post. "But from this point on we have to set (Friday) as a new standard. We have to play up to this."

That might be without goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who is nursing another groin injury. It kept him out of three games earlier this month and he didn't travel with the team to Chicago.

Calvin Pickard played well against the Blackhawks, stopping 38 shots. He'll be asked to slow down a Calgary team hoping to find the groove it had in early December. The Flames put together a six-game winning streak at the beginning of the month but are just 2-3 since.

They hope Friday's win was the start to another one.

"We had the streak and then we had a little bit of a lull here," Giordano told NHL.com after the win over Vancouver. "I felt like we haven't played our best the last few games. (Friday) I thought we were solid throughout 60 minutes. You play like that and you're going to come out on the right end a lot of nights."



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