By Dave Vest
Rookie Matt Duchene, the third overall pick in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, scored two goals to lead the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-1 victory over the Coyotes Friday night at the Pepsi Center.
Duchene’s goal with 4:33 left in regulation and a couple of penalties called on the Coyotes (37-20-5) later in the third period sealed Phoenix’s fate and snapped its modest two-game winning streak.
Colorado (35-19-6) was called for four penalties in the third period, but two of Phoenix’s power plays lasted less than six seconds because penalties were called against the Coyotes before they could begin to take advantage of the extra attacker.
The Coyotes were dumbfounded by a tripping call on defenseman Adrian Aucoin
at 7:26 and a hi-sticking call on Matthew Lombardi at 11:20. Both calls turned Phoenix power plays into lengthy four-on-four sequences. Penalties called on Ed Jovanovski
(interference) and Martin Hanzal
(boarding) in the final two minutes of the game derailed any hopes of a late comeback by the Coyotes.
Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson stopped 33 of 34 shots to earn his 31st victory. Only Hanzal’s eighth goal of the season at 4:24 of the second smudged his nearly pristine outing.
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov
stopped 23 of 25 shots. Duchene beat him with a shot during a power play at 7:58 of the first period, and then deflected a slap shot by Brett Clark past him at 15:27 of the third.
"It hit (Duchene) on his stick and changed direction," Bryzgalov said of the game-winning goal. "There wasn't anything I could have done. I did all I could. I'm sure he was surprised himself. If it hadn't hit him in his stick and changed direction, they wouldn't have scored."
Duchene, 19, leads the Avalanche with 20 goals and all NHL rookies with 42 points.
"He's a guy we're counting on for production," Avalanche Head Coach Joe Sacco told reporters. "... A lot of our young guys play a lot of minutes. They've been used in a lot of different situations throughout the year, so that rookie status, it's really no longer."
The Avalanche outshot the Coyotes 12-2 in the first 10 minutes of the game, but the Coyotes started smothering them in the neutral zone in the second period and controlled the game until Duchene’s second goal.
The Coyotes had a great chance to take the lead with 6:02 left in the second period when Radim Vrbata
, who leads the team with 20 goals, got free for a breakaway.
Vrbata skated up the slot and wristed a shot at Colorado goalie Craig Anderson, who blocked the puck with his glove to preserve a 1-1 tie.
"I just wanted to read what he was doing, and he was coming in pretty quick," Anderson said. "I just challenged him and read that he was going high glove, and I got a piece of it."
• Before the game, the Avalanche made a classy move by including the Coyotes in their celebration of the start of the Winter Olympics. One by one, Phoenix's three Olympians – Ilya Bryzgalov
, Zbynek Michalek and Sami Lepisto
- were introduced and each received hearty applause from the crowd.
• The Coyotes went 0 for 5 on the power play and are 0 for 16 in their past four games. For the season, they rank 28th in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 15.4 percent.
• Center Vernon Fiddler
drew two of Colorado’s third-period penalties by hustling after loose pucks.
• The Coyotes scratched Paul Bissonnette
, Jeff Hoggan and Anders Eriksson. The Avalanche scratched Darren Haydar, John-Michael Liles and Ruslan Salei.
• The Coyotes will play their final game before the Olympic break on Saturday at 6 p.m. against the Dallas Stars at Jobing.com Arena. After the break, the Coyotes will play 19 more games – eight at home and 11 on the road.