The puck slid across the ice inside the blue paint enveloping Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, onto the eager, awaiting stick of Dallas stars veteran Erik Cole. A simple one-timer into the net, and it would again be a tie game, with the advantage probably going to the home team the rest of the way.

Varlamov's answer to Cole: "Nyet."

That save, along with 12 others in the third period, stole the Avs two points at American Airlines Arena Monday night as Colorado beat Dallas 4-3. With 71 points now, the playoffs keep looking more and more like a real possibility for the Avs. They haven't always looked pretty in winning of late, and in this one they were outshot a whopping 44-21, but good goaltending and timely scoring again were enough.

"The third period was huge for us. Thank God we scored that fourth goal. We'll take it," said Varlamov, who vastly outplayed his counterpart, Kari Lehtonen, who had been named the NHL's First Star of the week Monday.

Varlamov made two truly great saves in the third: the one on Cole, who was camped out in the right crease to accept Tyler Seguin's crossing pass as Dallas was on a power play that started with 10:38 left. The other was on Seguin, from the other side.

"The difference in the game, without a doubt, was the start of the game and the performance of our goalie," said Avs coach Patrick Roy, whose team took two of three games on its road trip through Florida and Texas. "We had such a good start and they had to play catch-up hockey, and in this league it's very difficult. But they had a really good second period, with 19 shots on net. They were buzzing. They're a high-tempo team. But at the same time, our goalie was outstanding."

Games in Dallas always seem to go like this. Both teams like to skate and play open offensively, so goals and scoring chances are usually abundant. The Stars had more chances than Colorado, opening a 28-14 edge in shots at one point. But the Avs made more of their opportunities through the first 50 minutes, taking a 4-3 lead on goals by Nathan MacKinnon, Jamie McGinn, Paul Stastny and Alex Tanguay.

Tanguay's goal broke a 3-3 tie entering the midway point of the third, a shot that might have deflected in off the skate of Stars defender Sergei Gonchar, who was tied up with Stastny in front.

"When I look back some day, that goal will be a one-timer, roof job, right?" Tanguay joked. "However it goes in, I'll take that right now."

As Roy noted, the only time the Avs had the absolute advantage in all phases of the game was in the first 15 minutes, and they were rewarded with a 2-0 lead on goals by MacKinnon (his 18th) and McGinn (12th). Both goals were the result of driving to the net hard and making Lehtonen move around.