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Surging Avs visit Devils

The Avalanche were seconds away last night from losing ground in the Western Conference playoff race. Instead, they enter tonight's meeting with the Devils holding on to the eighth spot in the conference.

Colorado will look to keep its claim on that position this evening as it goes for a fourth straight victory both overall and against New Jersey.

The Avalanche fell behind by a goal last night versus the Sabres after Buffalo's Alexander Sulzer scored just 1:55 into the third frame and was staring at a tough defeat before Jaime McGinn tapped home a Ryan O'Reilly feed from in close with just two seconds left on the clock to force overtime.

Colorado took over from there and improved its shootout record to 9-1 on the season when Peter Mueller scored the lone tally of the extra frame. Semyon Varlamov made 20 saves through overtime and another three in the shootout, pushing his record this season in the tiebreaker to a perfect 8-0.

"We knew how important this game was just to stay in the hunt," McGinn said after his two-goal effort. "We got the job done."

David Jones also scored and Gabriel Landeskog added his NHL rookie-leading 20th goal of the season for the Avs, who have won three straight -- all past regulation -- and nine of their last 12. That has Colorado one point behind seventh-place Phoenix in the West and two points ahead of San Jose, Calgary and Los Angeles for the last playoff berth.

The Avs, though, have played three more games than the Sharks and two more than the Flames and Kings. Los Angeles is idle tonight, while Calgary hosts Phoenix and San Jose gets a visit from Nashville.

Colorado stretched its winning streak over New Jersey to three in a row with a 6-1 home win on Nov. 30, getting a goal and two assists from O'Reilly and 18 stops from Varlamov.

The Devils will try to avenge that defeat tonight after dropping a 3-0 decision in Philadelphia on Tuesday. The shutout loss snapped New Jersey's four-game win streak, one that was extended with a win over the Flyers on Sunday.

Brodeur picked up his 650th career win in that meeting, but was denied No. 651 after making 26 saves on Tuesday. He was touched for two goals as Philadelphia's third tally went into an empty-net with 4:49 to play during a 4-on-4 situation.

"We had nothing going and we were down by two," said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer on the decision to pull his goaltender. "There was an opportunity to create a power play and I like our chances scoring five on four better than I do with six on five with two minutes left to go. It is not a unique decision."

The loss dropped the Devils two points back of the Flyers for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. They are also three ahead of the seventh-place Senators.