ANAHEIM, California — It was the Colorado Avalanche's season in microcosm, Matt Duchene said.
A poor start necessitating a furious finish against the Anaheim Ducks to stay alive in Colorado's desperate chase for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Duchene scored the winning goal and Reto Berra overcame a shaky first period to make 35 saves as the Avalanche came away with a 4-2 victory over the Ducks on Friday night to remain mathematically alive for another day.
A regulation loss would have eliminated the Avalanche from playoff contention, trailing the Los Angeles Kings by six points for the final berth with only four games remaining. The Avalanche play their final road game Saturday at the Kings.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy admitted it would require "a miracle" to make the playoffs, but isn't ready to concede defeat either.
"I consider myself very lucky that this is my group, working hard night after night and being resilient right now and not giving up," Roy said.
"If we win out, you never know what can happen," Duchene said. "We're going to give ourselves the best opportunity possible, and even if we don't make it we got a lot of pride in here, a lot of character."
Duchene beat John Gibson under the goalie's left leg for his 21st of the season with 10:52 remaining in the third period, capitalizing as the Ducks shuffled their roster to prepare for the playoffs after clinching the Pacific Division on Wednesday. Leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf was a healthy scratch, and former first-round pick Stefan Noesen made his NHL debut.
Gibson made 19 saves for the Ducks, whose four-game winning streak came to an end.
The Avalanche took a 1-0 lead when Jarome Iginla occupied three Ducks defenders and slid the puck across the slot to John Mitchell, who put it past Gibson for his 11th goal of the season.
Jiri Sekac tied it 58 seconds later by collecting an errant pass, racing down the ice on a breakaway and leaving Berra sprawled face-first on the ice before coolly backhanding the puck in for his ninth goal of the season.
Things didn't get any better for Berra, losing his balance trying to keep track of Corey Perry behind the net. After Perry lost control of the puck, Rickard Rakell corralled it and converted a low-angle shot into an empty net for a 2-1 lead with 2:02 left in the first.
The Avalanche also had a John Mitchell goal waved off early in the first period after the referees ruled that Jordan Caron interfered with Gibson.
Tempers flared in the second period, ultimately putting the Avalanche in position to tie the game at 2-2.
Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski lost his stick and responded by getting into it with Duchene, jabbing him several times in the back with both hands before being whistled for holding.
On the ensuing power play, Alex Tanguay found Gabriel Landeskog between the circles for a one-timer with 3:08 remaining in the period. Landeskog picked up his 23rd goal of the season and 56th point, matching Iginla for the team lead.
Dennis Everberg added an empty net goal.
The Ducks still have a chance to win the Presidents' Trophy, but are more focused on sharpening their "sense of urgency," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said.
"We only have two games left before the playoffs," Beauchemin said. "Tonight wasn't good enough. We gave up way too many odd-man rushes and too many penalties. We need to be more disciplined."
Beating a team of the Ducks' caliber makes the predicament the Avalanche find themselves in that much more frustrating.
"We know we can play with anybody in the league, and that's maybe the most disappointing part in us being in the position we are in," Duchene said. "We know if we can squeak in, or could have squeaked in, we would have given anybody in this league a run for their money."
NOTES: Ducks D Clayton Stoner and LW Matt Beleskey each missed their third straight game with lower-body injures. LW Patrick Maroon (flu) also sat, and D Korbinian Holzer was a healthy scratch. ... The loss marked only the fourth this season for the Ducks against the Central Division (16-4-0). . The Avalanche improved to 7-3-2 in the first of back-to-back games.