DENVER (AP) — Viktor Fasth has quickly gone from unknown in the net to unbelievable.
Given the way he’s playing, the backup is making a strong case for even more playing time.
Fasth stopped 31 shots for his first NHL shutout and Francois Beauchemin scored in his 500th career game, lifting the surging Anaheim Ducks to a 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
In just a short time — four starts, to be exact — Fasth has earned the trust of his teammates and his coach.
“He’s giving me confidence that I never knew I’d have in him when he came over,” said Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau, whose team won its fourth straight game. “It’s a great, pleasant surprise that Viktor has come over and played so well.”
The 30-year-old Fasth has certainly been quite a find for the Ducks since he signed as a free agent during the offseason. According to the Ducks, Fasth is the first goaltender in NHL history over the age of 30 to win his first four games.
Fasth stymied the struggling Avalanche with one sprawling save after another to help Anaheim start a six-game road swing on a good note.
“Vik’s really on the puck, making it easy on us,” Beauchemin said. “If it wasn’t for him, there was no way we would’ve won that game.”
The Avalanche players were in a sour mood after the game as they were shut out for a third time this season. That especially didn’t sit too well with Matt Duchene.
“We’ve got to find a way to score, bottom line,” Duchene said. “We’ve been shut out three times in 10 games; it’s unacceptable. It’s almost 50 percent of the games we’re getting shut out. It’s a joke.”
No one’s laughing about Fasth’s fast start. In his first four NHL appearances, he’s stopped 101 of 105 shots. But the ever-humble Fasth shrugged off his recent play, even his first shutout.
“It’s nothing you go and think about. You just try to do your best and help the team out as much as you can,” Fasth said. “I’m really glad I had (the shutout). It’s a little bonus. Most important thing is we got the win and started off this road trip really good.”
The competition between Fasth and starter Jonas Hiller is heating up. Not that Boudreau views it quite that way.
“Hilly will be playing very soon,” Boudreau said. “He will be doing the same thing, I hope.”
Fasth’s best save against Colorado was when Milan Hejduk skated in late in the final period and lined a shot that Fasth gobbled up with his chest.
That was the type of night it was for Fasth, who was the Swedish Elite League’s goaltender of the year the last two seasons.
“Tonight, he stole us a victory,” Boudreau said.
Sheldon Souray and Saku Koivu each added a goal and an assist for the Ducks,
Kyle Palmieri nearly added a goal early in the third period on a 2-on-1 breakaway, but Semyon Varlamov slid over, stuck out of his glove and trapped the puck against the post. The referees took a quick look on replay before upholding the ruling of no goal.
Beauchemin all but wrapped up this game with a goal in the second period that gave the Ducks a commanding 3-0 lead. The play was set up by Koivu, who took a bone-jarring hit along the boards to send the puck into the offensive zone, where Daniel Winnik corralled the puck and sent it over to Beauchemin for his second goal of the season.
The Avalanche had David Jones back in the lineup after he missed the previous two games with a knee injury. But it didn’t ignite the offense as Colorado lost for a second straight time at home.
Boudreau had a chance to catch up with Varlamov, his former goalie, in a Pepsi Center hallway at the morning skate. The two were together while with Washington.
Asked the biggest difference between Varlamov then and now, Boudreau said, “He’s way more consistent. From when I watch, there are no soft goals.”
And then Varlamov proceeded to surrender two soft ones in the first period. He let a liner from Souray near the blue line slip between his pads.
Later, Varlamov failed to bat away a pass through the goal crease, allowing Koivu to tap it in with the Ducks on a 5-on-3 advantage. It was the first goal the Avs have allowed in 21 power-play chances at Pepsi Center this season.
“If you look at the overall game, they didn’t outplay us,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. “At the end it got a little helter-skelter. We had some chance, we didn’t score. We’ve got to stick with it and keep grinding it out.”
NOTES: Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog (head and leg) missed a sixth straight game. … The injury-riddled Avalanche claimed F Aaron Palushaj off waivers from Montreal. He didn’t play Wednesday. … Ducks D Toni Lydman (flu) was a scratch. The team recalled D Jordan Hendry from Norfolk.
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