Leafs visit Avs in battle between streaking clubs
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Maple Leafs have found the perfect counter to their post-Winter Classic blues: their longest winning streak in seven years.
The Maple Leafs next try to extend their run to six consecutive victories on Tuesday night as they visit a Colorado Avalanche team that is on its longest winning streak in nearly three months.
Following a 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings in Ann Arbor on New Year's Day, the Maple Leafs lost four straight and were outscored 21-7. However, they have since potted 18 non-shootout goals over a five-game winning streak, their first of that length since Jan. 27-Feb. 6, 2007.
Toronto kept up its winning ways last night in the opener of a four-game road trip, picking up a 4-2 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri both had power-play goals, while Jake Gardiner and Carl Gunnarsson also scored.
Kessel has three goals and seven assists over a five-game point streak and Jonathan Bernier came up with 39 saves to win his fourth straight decision.
"We did a lot of good things early in the game and then we reverted back to some of the old habits," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "We seem to want to make life more difficult for ourselves. But we've won five in a row now and it's a positive step for this club."
Another step in the right direction would be winning six straight for the first time since Dec. 23-Jan 2 during the 2005-06 campaign.
Toronto improved to 9-10-4 as the road team this season compared to a 17-10-1 record at home and now sits just two points behind Montreal for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Colorado comes in also on a roll, having won four straight to post its longest win streak since a six-game run from Oct. 19-Nov. 2. The Avalanche sit third in the Central Division with 67 points, eight ahead of Minnesota and four back of second-place St. Louis.
The Avalanche scored three first-period goals on Saturday in Nashville, but had to hold on late in a 5-4 win over the Predators, who scored three goals in the game's final 12 minutes.
Still, Colorado was able to improve to 8-1-2 in its last 11 games.
"It is not important how the game ends, it is the result at the end. We had a really good start. We stopped skating and playing like we should have. This is a team that can score goals and they got back in the game. But we held on," said Avs coach Patrick Roy.
Nick Holden scored twice and also assisted on Matt Duchene's first goal since Dec. 19, ending a 13-game drought without a goal for the forward. Jan Hejda and Gabriel Landeskog also scored and Paul Stastny had two assists in his first game back after missing two straight with a leg injury.
Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves to match a Colorado record by posting his 16th straight start without a regulation loss. He has gone 11-0-5 since his last setback in 60 minutes on Dec. 10, evening Peter Budaj's 13-0-3 run from Feb. 24-April 5, 2007.
Varlamov is 2-0-1 with a 1.95 goals against average in three career starts versus the Leafs.
Colorado is expected to have forward P.A. Parenteau back in the lineup tonight. He has missed 10 straight games with a sprained MCL and has logged nine goals and 24 points in 38 contests on the season.
Parenteau had the game-winning tally in the first meeting this season between the Avs and Leafs, scoring early in the third period in a 2-1 triumph on Oct. 8 in Toronto.
Varlamov made 27 saves as the Avalanche bested the Maple Leafs for the fifth time in the previous seven encounters.
Bernier, making his first start and second career appearance versus the Avs, made 31 saves.
Fellow Toronto netminder James Reimer is 1-0-1 with a 2.97 GAA in two career starts against Colorado.
01/21 11:22:53 ET