Nieto’s hat trick helps Avalanche end skid
DENVER — Semyon Varlamov came up big in the third period, and Matt Nieto took advantage to score his first career hat trick.
Varlamov had 13 of his 34 saves in the third period to preserve a lead, Nieto sealed it with his third goal of the game in the final seconds, and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Dallas Stars 5-3 on Tuesday night to end a three-game skid.
Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and an assist, Mark Barberio also scored, and Blake Comeau had three assists for the Avalanche, who withstood a Dallas surge to end the Stars’ four-game winning streak.
Nieto scored the first two goals of the game for Colorado and completed the hat trick with an empty-netter with 3.1 seconds left.
“It’s awesome. The team had a couple losses and to come back into our building and come back to the win column, for me to be able to contribute is a good feeling,” Nieto said. “It’s definitely a hard thing to accomplish in this league, so I’ll definitely remember this night.”
The Avalanche (5-4-0) avenged a loss in Dallas 10 days earlier but had to survive Dallas’ dominating third period.
Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists, John Klingberg had a goal and an assist, and Brett Ritchie also scored for Dallas. Kari Lehtonen stopped 14 shots in relief of Ben Bishop.
The Stars weren’t happy after losing for the first time in five games, especially Bishop. He was upset with coach Ken Hitchcock’s decision to pull him at 6:12 of the second period after Colorado took the lead.
“There was no reason for me to come out. I guess that’s the coach’s decision, but it’s a 3-2 hockey game with more than half the game left,” said Bishop, who also had 14 saves. “I don’t know what the reason was but I’m fully confident we’ll come back when we’re losing 3-2 on the road. Kari did a great job and gave our team a chance to win.”
Hitchcock said he pulled Bishop to send a message to his team.
“It has nothing to do with Ben Bishop. It has to do with wake up, let’s get playing, which is exactly what we did,” Hitchcock said. “It has nothing to do with Ben. I’ll do the same with any other goaltender. If I think it’s going to help the team to change their mindset, I’ve got to do whatever it takes. So that’s what I did.”
It made a difference in the third period but Colorado had built a lead it didn’t relinquish.
The Avalanche outscored the Stars 3-1 in the second, the last goal coming on Barberio’s first of the season with 9.8 seconds left in the frame, which made it 4-2.
Dallas (5-4-0) outshot Colorado 14-7 in the third and got within one on Klingberg’s goal at 10:12. Varlamov made several big saves to keep Colorado in front into the final minute. Lehtonen then came off for an extra skater with 30 seconds left but Nieto scored.
“We have to learn how to play solid 60 minutes because we came out in the third period and just stopped playing,” Varlamov said. “We cannot do this.”
The score was 1-1 heading into the second when the teams combined for three goals in 1:50.
Nieto gave Colorado its first lead when he stuffed in a rebound off Carl Soderberg’s shot from right in front of the net, but Ritchie quickly tied it with his first of the season when he knocked in a centering pass from Tyler Seguin 30 seconds later.
Landeskog put Colorado in front 3-2 when he beat Bishop with a sharp-angle shot from the left side at 4:04.
Lehtonen came on for Bishop 2:08 after Landeskog scored.
“I’m not very happy with the decision,” Bishop said. “There’s still a lot of hockey left and it’s a 3-2 game. I felt good.”
Benn gave the Stars the first-period lead when he flicked a shot off defenseman Anton Lindholm’s stick and through Varlamov’s legs at 8:03 of the first.
Nieto tied it 1-1 with when he charged the net and cleaned up Landeskog’s rebound on a 4-on-4 at 13:45.
NOTES: Stars D Stephen Johns left the game after the first period with concussion symptoms. He did not return. ... Avalanche D Patrik Nemeth (lower-body injury) and C Colin Wilson (hip) were out of the lineup. D Chris Bigras took Nemeth’s spot and LW Gabriel Bourque, recalled Sunday from AHL San Antonio, was in the lineup for Wilson, who is considered day-to-day ... The Stars killed off 13 straight penalties during their winning streak. ... The Avalanche recalled D Andrei Mironov from San Antonio on Monday. He was a healthy scratch. ... Stars C Tyler Seguin had two assists, and he as eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last five games.