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Varlamov heroics help Avs beat Wild

AP

Semyon Varlamov celebrated his new contract with another stellar performance in net.

Varlamov had 35 saves, John Mitchell had a goal and an assist and the Colorado Avalanche edged the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night.

Matt Duchene had two assists for Colorado, which survived a flurry at the end to get the victory. Ryan O’Reilly, Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon and Maxime Talbot also scored.

It was quite a day for the 25-year-old Varlamov, who also finalized a five-year extension with Colorado that runs through the 2018-19 season.

“It was a big day for us. I’m sure it’s a great day for Varly as well,” first-year coach Patrick Roy said. “He certainly deserved that contract. We’re very happy it’s a done deal.”

The Avalanche acquired Varlamov from Washington in July 2011, and the Russian turned in a pair of inconsistent seasons under former coach Joe Sacco. He has flourished under the tutelage of Roy, a Hall of Fame goalie, and goaltender coach Francois Allaire, improving to 27-9-5 with Thursday’s win.

“Thank God the right people came to the team during the summer,” Varlamov said. “Patrick, and especially Francois Allaire. Those guys helped me a lot. They changed my game.”

Colorado needed every bit of Varlamov’s talent against Minnesota. He helped the Avalanche win the season series 4-0-1 and move nine points ahead of the Wild in the Central Division. Colorado has a firm grasp on third place and the final automatic playoff seed in the division.

“It was a big game for us. We have three games in hand and we’re up (nine) points in the standings,” Duchene said. “That puts us well ahead and we just have to keep taking care of business.”

Zach Parise had two goals and two assists and Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville also scored for Minnesota, which went 9-4-1 in January to get into the thick of the postseason race.

The Avalanche used a big second period to help cool off the Wild.

Mitchell broke a 1-1 tie with his sixth goal of the season at 1:43. Stastny scored his 16th of the season on a rebound midway through the period, and Talbot used the stick of Wild center Kyle Brodziak to make it 4-1 at 15:26. Brodziak had gathered a rebound in front of goalie Darcy Kuemper when Talbot came in from behind and hit the center’s stick to put the puck in the net.

“We were so good the first two periods,” Roy said. “Offensively this is the best I’ve seen our team play. We were cycling the puck, moving it quick. We had tons of chances.”

Penguins 4, Kings 1

In Los Angeles, Jussi Jokinen had a goal and two assists in the first period, Evgeni Malkin scored in the opening minute, and the Penguins chased Jonathan Quick.

Ducks 5, Flyers 3

In Anaheim, Ryan Getzlaf scored the go-ahead goal in the final minute of the first period and the Ducks also got goals from Corey Perry, Patrick Maroon and Daniel Winnik.

Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 3

In Toronto, Nazem Kadri had three assists, including his 100th career point, and the Maple Leafs earned their fifth consecutive home victory.

Canadiens 4, Bruins 1

In Boston, Peter Budaj stopped 34 shots and Montreal ended the Bruins’ recent scoring binge.

Devils 3, Stars 2 (OT)

In Dallas, Patrik Elias scored a power-play goal 40 seconds into overtime.

Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 2

In Columbus, Ryan Johansen scored twice.

Senators 5, Lightning 3

In Ottawa, Marc Methot, Erik Karlsson, Zack Smith, Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan scored as the Senators jumped to a four-goal lead and held on for the win.

Sabres 3, Coyotes 2

In Glendale, Arizona, Zemgus Girgensons scored a short-handed goal in the third period and had an assist.

Flames 4, Sharks 1

In Calgary, Mark Giordano scored the winning goal.