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Colorado Avalanche weather a storm of San Jose shots to clinch a playoff spot

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After four long years filled with disappointment, the Colorado Avalanche are back in the playoffs.

They clinched a postseason birth Saturday afternoon, defeating the San Jose Sharks 3-2.

Semyon Varlamov was marvelous in net, casting aside 47 of 49 shots from San Jose. With the win (his 37th), Varlamov now sits atop all NHL goaltenders in that category.

Defying conventional logic, Varlamov’s numbers actually get better when he faces a large amount of shots. The 25-year old Varlamov now has a record of 7-1-1, when facing 40 or more pucks on net.

Making his return from a back injury, forward John Mitchell paid immediate dividends for the Avs; contributing both a powerplay goal and an assist in the winning effort. The team also got a shorthanded goal from the ever truculent Cody McLeod, who turned a San Jose turnover into a breakaway tally.

Taking McLeod’s oft-frequented place in the sin bin was resident Boy Scout Ryan O’Reilly. A probable Lady Byng Trophy candidate (awarded annually to the league's most gentlemanly player), O’Reilly took his first penalty of the season in unfortunate fashion; continuing to play after breaking his stick on the faceoff. After starting his career as a center, O’Reilly moved primarily to wing this season, making the call all that much more ironic.

The Avalanche also got a goal from center Paul Stastny, who continued to showcase his chemistry with Gabriel Landeskog; taking the captain’s pass from behind the goal-line, and depositing it into the back of the net.

San Jose’s goals came from Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle; which were but two bright spots in a day filled with frustration. The Sharks got plenty of chances, but were stonewalled time and time again by Varlamov.

Raising some cause for concern for Avalanche faithful however, was the injury suffered by leading scorer Matt Duchene. On his first shift of the game, Duchene collided with teammate Jamie McGinn, missing the rest of the contest with a knee injury.

Duchene’s condition is expected to be reevaluated in the coming days. The Avalanche have eight games remaining in the regular season; and currently set a point ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for second place in the central division standings, with a game in hand.

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