NEWS
12/11/2016 16:51 EST | Updated 12/12/2017 00:12 EST

Varlamov makes 51 saves in 3-1 win over Leafs as Avs rebound from 10-1 loss

TORONTO — Semyon Varlamov helped the Colorado Avalanche rebound from one of the worst losses in team history with 51 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night.

Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Blake Comeau scored for the Avalanche (11-15-1), who were thumped 10-1 on Saturday evening by the Montreal Canadiens. It was only the second win in the last nine games for Colorado, which sits last in the NHL with 23 points.

Antoine Bibeau made 26 saves in his first NHL start, Jake Gardiner scoring the lone goal for Toronto (11-11-5).

The Leafs, who won 4-1 in Boston on Saturday, are now 0-5-1 on the second half of back-to-backs this season.

Colorado, which had never allowed 10 goals in a game since moving from Quebec, failed to come out with much pep early against Toronto.

The Leafs fired 16 of the first 19 shots, shift after shift spent hogging the puck in the Colorado zone. The Leafs couldn't break through, however, largely due to the efforts of Varlamov. The Russian netminder, who gave up six goals in the loss to Montreal, was stellar in stopping all 21 first period shots, a season-high this year for the Leafs.

Even-strength shot attempts favoured Toronto 24-7.

It was the Avs who got on the board first with Rantanen's fourth goal this season. Bibeau had trouble with Jarome Iginla's initial one-time attempt on the Colorado power play, Matt Duchene grabbing the rebound in front before finding Rantanen with a backhand pass. The 20-year-old fired into a largely empty cage, Bibeau's left skate locking with teammate Matt Hunwick's right skate as he scrambled to get over.

The 22-year-old was making his first NHL start after a so-so start to the American Hockey League season. Superb in October, during which he was named the league's goalie of the month, Bibeau dropped off and lost his final five starts before being recalled to replace Jhonas Enroth as Frederik Andersen's backup.

Notable in the early going was Mitch Marner's drop to the Leafs fourth line. Among the leading rookie scorers, the 19-year-old has cooled of late, totalling just three assists (no goals) in nine games before Sunday.

Marner was reunited with usual linemates James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak in a second frame that saw play even out.

Bibeau had to come up big after the Leafs failed to score on their third power play of the game. The six-foot-three netminder shut down a two-on-one opportunity between Avalanche forwards John Mitchell and Gabriel Landeskog, then stopping tough guy Cody McLeod during another Colorado rush.

Shots favoured the visitors 15-10 in the middle frame.

The action turned chippy with less than eight minutes left in the period when Matt Martin dumped Andreas Martinsen along the boards in the Colorado end. Nikita Zadarov, a six-foot-five, 230-pound defender, took exception to the hit and proceeded to fight with the six-foot-three, 220-pound Martin.

Varlamov continued to stand tall in the third, stopping Zach Hyman in the early parts of the period as he and linemates, William Nylander and Auston Matthews pressed.

MacKinnon upped the lead to 2-0 a short while later. High sticked by Leafs forward Leo Komarov as he came through the neutral zone, MacKinnon blew right past the Toronto defence and beat Bibeau for his eighth goal of the season and third in the last four games.

Komarov drew a double-minor for his foul, though the Leafs managed to hold the Avalanche off the board. 

Toronto's power play, which scored only once in the previous five games, finally broke through in the waning minutes of regulation when Gardiner beat Varlamov with a one-time blast. That brought the Leafs to within one, Comeau icing the action with an empty netter just over a minute later.

Overall shot attempts were 99-52 in favour of the beaten home side.