MacKinnon breaks tie in 2nd, Varlamov stops 37 shots as Avalanche beat Stars 4-3

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DENVER — There was a time when an early two-goal deficit would've deflated the Colorado Avalanche.

That was so two weeks ago, though. This is a way more confident group, especially with a healthy Semyon Varlamov in goal.

Nathan MacKinnon broke a second-period tie and Varlamov stopped 37 shots, leading the Colorado Avalanche to a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday.

Erik Johnson, John Mitchell and Matt Duchene also scored as the Avalanche won for the fifth time in six games to leapfrog Dallas in the Central Division standings.

"Our top guys have been playing good hockey," said Colorado coach Patrick Roy, whose team bounced back from a 2-0 deficit after the first period.

MacKinnon's score with 8.4 seconds left in the second was part of a three-goal period for the Avalanche. They came out fast to start the third, too, with Duchene scoring just 12 seconds into period. It was Duchene's first goal since Dec. 11.

"We stayed with it and Varly made big saves the rest of the way," Duchene said.

The pivotal play of the game was early in the third when Tyler Seguin, the NHL's leading goal scorer, was stuffed on a breakaway by Varlamov. The save kept Colorado's lead in tact as the crowd chanted "Varly, Varly."

"I made a quick move on net, but (Varly) made the save," Seguin said.

Varlamov improved to 6-2 with two shutouts in eight starts since returning from a groin injury. He's stopped 127 of 132 shots over his past three games.

"I thought that he was focused," Roy said. "He was capable of regrouping."

Brett Ritchie, Colton Sceviour and Ales Hemsky had goals for the Stars, who have dropped five straight in Denver.

The Stars pulled Kari Lehtonen with about 1:20 remaining and had a great chance to tie the game, only to have Jason Spezza's shot from down low clang off the post.

"We played well enough to win — hard enough, well enough," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Colorado erupted for three goals in the second period to turn around a game the Stars were dominating. MacKinnon's goal that gave Colorado the lead was upheld after a lengthy review.

The play started when Maxime Talbot intercepted a pass near the blue line and sent it over to MacKinnon. The teenager tried to push the puck past Lehtonen's left pad. The referee signaled good, the horn blew and the Avalanche celebrated.

It was reviewed for several minutes, with one replay appearing to show the puck just barely creeping over the line. The officials said the play was inconclusive and the goal stood.

"Regardless of the wait, I got the result I wanted," MacKinnon said.

Asked what he thought of the call, Ruff said, "doesn't matter what I think. I know what they called."

Lehtonen was cruising along with a 2-0 lead in the second period, making pad save after pad save, until the Avalanche finally got something by him. It started with Johnson, who backhanded a shot that trickled past Lehtonen's left skate and into the goal.

"Lucky goal," Ruff said.

Just the way things have been going this season for Johnson, who was selected to his first All-Star game on Saturday. Johnson has a career-high 12 goals this season.

"I think he's been doing a super job," Roy said.

Just 1:25 after Johnson's goal, Mitchell sent a low liner from the blue line into traffic that got by Lehtonen to tie the game at 2.

The Stars caught Colorado napping in the Avalanche's only home afternoon game of the season, scoring 27 seconds into the game.

Seguin was originally credited with the goal after he turned and lined a shot on Varlamov. But it was given to Ritchie, who redirected the puck. Ritchie has three goals since being recalled from Texas of the American Hockey League on New Year's Eve.

NOTES: Stars LW Erik Cole was a late scratch because of an illness. ... Dallas players have their fathers and mentors on the trip. ... Duchene's goal 12 seconds into the third was the fastest goal by Colorado to start a period this season. ... LW Alex Tanguay was limping after the game. He caught a slap shot in the right leg during the third period. ... Roy said backup goalie Reto Berra would be sent to the minors for conditioning. He will play five games over two weeks before being brought back. Calvin Pickard will join the team and play in Carolina on Tuesday.

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