Over­time vic­tory over the Black­hawks shows how well Colorado can play.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Mike Cham­bers

chicago» The Avalanche en­ters the NHL’s three-day Christ­mas break com­ing off what might have been its best game of the sea­son. If noth­ing else, Fri­day’s 2-1 over­time vic­tory over the West­ern Con­fer­ence-lead­ing Chicago Black­hawks was a char­ac­ter win and im­pres­sive on mul­ti­ple fronts:

• Colorado started strong, had sig­nif­i­cant scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and didn’t have any ma­jor de­fen­sive break­downs.

• The ef­fort came one night af­ter a 6-0 drub­bing at home by the re­build­ing Toronto Maple Leafs, with the Avs set­tling in at their Chicago ho­tel at 3 a.m. Fri­day.

But it doesn’t change the fact that Colorado is the first NHL team to lose 20 games this sea­son and is last in nearly every ma­jor sta­tis­ti­cal team cat­e­gory. Through 33 games of the 82-game sea­son, the Avs ap­pear des­tined to miss the play­offs for the third con­sec­u­tive year and eighth time in 11 sea­sons.

“Heck of a long way to go,” Avs cen­ter Matt Duch­ene said at the United Cen­ter. “Gutsy ef­fort by us (Fri­day), and we showed a lot of char­ac­ter. We’re go­ing to en­joy this one over Christ­mas break, but we’re nowhere near where we want to be.”

The Avs have won only three games in De­cem­ber — each on the road. They are 0-5 at home this month and haven’t won at the Pepsi Cen­ter since Nov. 15. One of the worst losses in club his­tory un­folded Dec. 10 in a 10-1 drub­bing at Mon­treal. The next night, Colorado won 3-1 at Toronto.

“If you look at the last two or three weeks, the only wins we’ve had is af­ter we’ve been blown out,” said Avs cap­tain Gabe Lan­deskog. “That’s not good enough. We can’t be like that. I think (Fri­day) we proved that when we play the way we know we can play, when we’re click­ing — and there’s no ex­cuse for us not to play like that on a daily ba­sis — we’re a good team.”

The Avs’ sea­son re­sets Tues­day against the vis­it­ing Cal­gary Flames. Lan­deskog isn’t sug­gest­ing a mir­a­cle turn­around, but he still be­lieves the Avs can still vie for a play­off berth.

“Ob­vi­ously, we can’t do any­thing about what’s hap­pened up to this point, and what we’ve not pro­duced,” Lan­deskog said. “But from this point on, we have to set (Fri­day) as a new stan­dard. We have to play up to this.”

He added: “When you keep it tight, make good de­ci­sions with the puck and ev­ery­body com­petes like it’s the last game in the play­offs, we can suc­ceed like we did (in Chicago).”

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