DENVER — The groin injury that caused Semyon Varlamov to miss one game didn't hinder his play in his return to the Colorado Avalanche net at Pepsi Center on Thursday.
Varlamov made 23 saves through overtime, and then stopped two of three New Jersey Devils shots in the shootout in the Avalanche's 2-1 win.
"He looked great. We tested his groin," said Jarome Iginla, who scored the decisive goal in the third round of the tiebreaker against Devils goalie Cory Schneider and gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead early in the second period. "There's no doubt he was fine because he had to go post to post a few times."
Varlamov sustained the groin injury late in the third period Sunday in the Avalanche's 3-2 win against the Minnesota Wild. He missed 15 games earlier in the season because of groin injuries.
"I don't want to talk about the groin issue," he said after the victory. "When you play a lot of games, sometimes you feel somewhere is uncomfortable and you have to battle through those small injuries and try to keep playing."
The Avalanche (31-26-11) has gone 9-4-0 in its past 13 games and is six points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference with 14 games remaining.
"There's lot of games left," Iginla said. "I know it goes quickly, but there's lots of points to be had, so we're just going to keep trying on focusing on ourselves and keep trying to find ways to win games and keep chipping away. We know it's not about winning every single game, but we want to give ourselves a chance to get on a roll."
After Iginla swept the puck between Schneider's skates in the shootout, Varlamov made a save against Devils forward Patrik Elias to secure the win.
"I was debating whether to go backhand or cut all the way back," Iginla said of his shootout goal. "I was thinking maybe cut all the way back, and then, fortunately, I was able to see the five-hole open up and was pretty excited to see it go in."
"I think he wanted to cut back on me," said Schneider, who made 28 saves. "I don't think he wanted to go five-hole, so I read and tried to get to the post. Unfortunately I didn't have any coverage five-hole."
Ryan O'Reilly scored in the first round, but Matt Duchene shot wide in the second. Varlamov made a pad save against Scott Gomez in the first round, but Jacob Josefson snapped the puck behind him in the second.
Varlamov was especially good in the first period, when the Devils dominated play and outshot the Avalanche 13-3.
"I guess the guys wanted to make sure he was ready," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "They gave him some good chances in the first, and he was phenomenal. He made some great saves and kept us there. In the second and third, our legs got better and we started playing a lot better hockey."
"That was a big part of the game because they came out strong and carried the play to us," Iginla said. "Being able to walk out of that being 0-0, we felt fortunate. That first period was a bad period for us, and it was nice to be able to win a game after a bad start at home."
The Devils (28-29-11) are 0-1-1 in the first two of a three-game road trip and have gone 1-4-1 in their past six road games.
"I think we liked a lot of things about our game tonight, but the first thing that comes to mind is I liked our compete and work ethic," Devils left wing Mike Cammalleri said. "I thought there was a consistency through our lineup as far as our commitment, and that's key."
Roy changed all four of his line combinations after the first period. The most significant move: replacing Jordan Caron with John Mitchell on a line with Duchene and Iginla. The three players combined for Colorado's goal at 2:27 of the second period.
"It's kind of a wakeup call for us as forwards," Iginla said. "It's just a different dynamic. I thought each line was going after that sluggish first period."
Mitchell knocked the puck away from Devils defenseman Andy Greene in the slot and it caromed off two skates -- Mitchell's and Duchene's -- and landed near the lower hash mark on the left side. Iginla followed the play and shot inside the near post for his 22nd goal, which leads the Avalanche.
"He made a nice play on the scramble in front," Schneider said of Iginla. "When he picks up the puck in that area with time and space, he doesn't miss very often. He still looks good. He seems pretty ageless."
The Devils tied the game on Greene's goal at 14:12 of the second period. Adam Henrique corralled a deflected puck in the right corner and passed to Greene just inside the blue line for a shot by Varlamov, who was screened.
Each goalie made a huge save in overtime. Schneider stopped Alex Tanguay on a breakaway with 2:27 left, and Varlamov gloved Jon Merrill's open shot from the right circle with 1:27 to go.
"He's been great all year," Mitchell said of Varlamov. "There was no difference tonight. He stood on his head for us. He's been doing it all year and we're going to need him down the stretch too."