DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche expected to be a better team this season. So far, they're the best team in the NHL.
Matt Duchene scored twice and added an assist while Erik Johnson and Alex Tanguay also scored goals as the Avalanche matched the best start in franchise history with a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday
Semyon Varlamov stopped 28 shots to help Colorado improve to 9-1. The 18 points in 10 games equals the start by the 1995 Quebec Nordiques and 2000-01 Avalanche.
"Some of the stuff we've been through the past few years have been tough and now things have fallen into place," Duchene said. "It's still early, a lot can go wrong, a lot can change, but if we keep on this trajectory I think we'll like where we're at come playoff time."
The Avalanche haven't finished with the league's best record since winning the Stanley Cup in 2001 with goaltender Patrick Roy earning playoff MVP honors. Now he's behind the bench leading the team's resurgence back to NHL elite status.
Even though there's five months left in the season, Colorado is taking pride in its strong start.
"It's nice but at the same time we look behind and everybody's pretty close," Roy said. "We can't have a night off."
Drayson Brown and Andrej Sekera scored goals for the Hurricanes, who dropped their second straight.
The injury-riddled Hurricanes suffered another blow Friday when forward Radek Dvorak left the game after two periods with a lower body injury.
Dvorak's injury comes a night after No. 1 goalie Cam Ward was lost to a lower body injury in the Hurricanes' loss to Minnesota.
"We've said before we're not going to make excuses," Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. "We've got some bodies out but at the end of the day their best players are on the scoresheet."
Ward's absence opened the door for Justin Peters to make his first start of the season. Peters, who took the loss when he came on for Ward against the Wild, had 30 saves Friday but it wasn't enough against the streaking Avalanche.
"I didn't want to think too much, didn't want to overanalyze it, just go out and play my game," Peters said. "I felt comfortable."
After being outshot in five of their last six games, the Avalanche went on the offensive from the start. They held an 18-8 shot advantage in the first period and increased it to 26-14 after two.
The pressure paid off with an early 2-0 lead.
Johnson, who was a game-time decision after taking a puck off his skate during Wednesday's practice, scored the first goal when he knocked in Paul Stastny's rebound with his skate midway through the first. The goal stood after a review showed Johnson didn't kick it in.
"I was just driving the net. I pretty much stopped so I didn't run over the goal and the puck just happened to be at my feet," he said. "Lucky for me it was a legal goal."
The Hurricanes killed off 1:48 of a Colorado 5-on-3 power play, but Duchene made it 2-0 when he skated from behind the net and beat Peters with a wraparound shot that went through the goalie's legs.
"Ryan (O'Reilly) made an unbelievable move on the guy to get a shot off," Duchene said. "I saw a little bit of daylight and saw the guy kind of heading me off so I didn't think it was going to work. He bit on it a little bit and I was able to tuck it in."
Carolina sliced the lead in half when Bowman scored 12 seconds into the second period. It was his first goal of the season.
Colorado regained a two-goal lead midway through the second when Duchene fed Tanguay in front for his third goal of the season.
Duchene's eighth goal 36 seconds into the third period made it 4-1, but Sekera answered two minutes later with his first goal of the season to make it 4-2.
Carolina had a great chance to pull closer on the power play midway through the third, but Varlamov made a glove save on Alexander Semin with 8:24 left to preserve the two-goal lead.
"Semin had a few good shots, hit a couple of posts and obviously that glove save as well," Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. "I thought it was a good power play and we moved the puck well. Just couldn't find a way to bury it."
The Hurricanes pulled Peters for an extra attacker with 1:42 remaining but couldn't get a shot on Varlamov, and the Avalanche celebrated its sixth win in seven games against Eastern Conference opponents.
"We feel that at any time that we step out there, we can win and it doesn't matter who we are facing, we have found ways to win. We are building confidence," Tanguay said. "Hopefully, we keep getting better. We're certainly going to need that in March and April and play better than we are now but we're pleased where we are at now."
NOTES: Hurricanes D Tim Gleason was back in the lineup after missing 10 games due to a concussion while RW Patrick Dwyer missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. ... The Avalanche entered Friday with the top-ranked penalty kill in the NHL at 90.3 percent. ... Carolina recalled G Mike Murphy from Charlotte of the AHL to serve as Peters' emergency backup. ... Colorado LW Cody McLeod served the third game of his five-game suspension for his hit on Detroit D Niklas Kronwall on Oct. 17.
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- Ice Hockey
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Matt Duchene
- Alex Tanguay
- Justin Peters