- Associated Press - Monday, November 11, 2013

DENVER —  The Colorado Avalanche are off to a soaring start, even if they pretend they’re nothing more than an average team.

Little mind games in order to keep winning them.

“We’re playing like we’re a .500 hockey team and not a 14-2 team. That’s the key,” Matt Duchene said. “You stay grounded and you stay humble and hungry.”

Semyon Varlamov stopped 33 shots and Nick Holden scored his first NHL goal to break a second-period tie, lifting the Avalanche to a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday night.

Patrick Bordeleau, P.A. Parenteau and Gabriel Landeskog also added goals for the Avalanche, who are off to a franchise-best 14-2 start under new coach Patrick Roy.

Before this season, the best mark through 16 games was 13-3 by the 1994-95 Quebec Nordiques, a season before the organization relocated to Denver.

“They’re one of the upper echelon teams, in regard to skating,” Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. “They have a quick group.”

Not too bad in goaltending, either.

Varlamov once again came up big against his former team, especially on a 5-on-3 early in the final period to preserve the lead. Varlamov also made 40 saves in a 5-1 win at Washington on Oct. 12.

Asked why Varlamov seemed to play so well against Washington, coach Adam Oates said: “He’s been in a zone against everybody so far.”

The turning point of the game was early in the third period when Cory Sarich was called for hooking to give Washington, the top power play team in the league, a man advantage. And then the Avalanche were whistled for too many men on the ice, setting up a 5-on-3 situation for 56 seconds.

But Varlamov turned back shot after shot, the crowd serenading him with “Varly, Varly” over and over.

“The guys did an unbelievable job for me,” Varlamov said. “This team, they’re unbelievable right now, on the (penalty kill) especially. I appreciate what they’re doing for me. We start this game very well, the guys give me confidence and scored a couple of good goals.”

Joel Ward had the lone goal for the Capitals as they lost for a second straight night. Alex Ovechkin thought he had a goal late in the third, but it was disallowed when replay showed he kicked it in with his left skate.

“We played a decent hockey game,” Oates said. “We let it get away at the end, but it was a decent game.”

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