DENVER, CO — Matt Duchene raised his arms and exhaled as he circled around the net following his first goal since Feb. 19.
What he calls the “worst slump” of his life is finally over.
“I think you could tell by my reaction how relieved I was,” Duchene said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever scored a goal that felt better than that one.”
Calvin Pickard stopped 27 shots, J.T. Compher scored his first NHL goal and Carl Soderberg added his first in 18 games as the NHL-worst Avalanche won at the Pepsi Center for the third time in four games. They are 11-22-2 at home this season.
“There were a lot of red jerseys in the stands, so it’s kind of interesting. But I thought third period, especially when we got going, our fans were incredible,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We’ve just got to give them something to cheer about.”
Andreas Athanasiou scored for the Red Wings, who, like their once-hated rival, are well out of the playoff hunt. Jimmy Howard made 26 saves in his second start since returning from a knee injury that had kept him out since Dec. 20.
The defeat ended Detroit’s nine-game point streak (6-0-3) against the Avalanche.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” Howard said, “we’ve got to come out and we’ve got to be ready to play.”
The Avalanche were shut out for the 12th time this season in a 1-0 loss to Arizona on Monday, tying a franchise record set in 2008-09. It took them 1 1/2 periods to break through against Detroit.
Duchene, one of the Colorado players linked to trade speculation before staying put at the deadline, flicked a wrist shot high and past Howard to tie the game midway through the second.
Then, with 3:49 gone in the third, Compher sent a wrister over Howard’s shoulder to put the Avalanche in front 2-1. Soderberg extended the lead 1:55 later with his sixth goal of the season.
“Nice to get the first one out of the way,” said Compher, whose goal was also his first point in eight games since being recalled from San Antonio of the AHL.
Detroit scored 5:09 into the first on a breakaway by Athanasiou.
Justin Abdelkader grabbed the puck along the boards near his own net and sent a nifty backhand pass to Athanasiou, who took it in stride as he sped down the ice. Athanasiou was untouched all the way and deked Pickard to the right, beating the goaltender stick side for his 16th of the season.
“I think our effort’s always there,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “We have a great group that works hard every night. You have to pay attention to detail. You have to make sure every play matters. But our effort’s there.”
RIVALRY GONE FLAT
Howard played in his 394th game, tying Mike Dunham for 12th among American-born goalies. . The Avalanche recalled 22-year-old defenseman Anton Lindholm from San Antonio on Monday. . RW Anthony Mantha was back on the ice for the Red Wings after he was benched the previous two games.
Red Wings: At the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
Avalanche: Begin a two-game road trip this weekend, starting in Detroit on Saturday.