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Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonathan Bernier makes a save against Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews in Toronto on Monday.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

The Colorado Avalanche have been the surprise of the National Hockey League with their rags to riches storyline through the first half of the season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs must not have been reading the headlines.

The speedy Avalanche made the most of their chances and walked away with a well-earned 4-2 victory over a Leafs outfit that played not too badly – but just not good enough – to prevent Colorado from extending its win streak to 10 games.

"We should have won that game," came the blunt assessment from Toronto coach Mike Babcock, whose team outshot Colorado 31-27.

It was a slow-to-simmer encounter that entered the third period with the score deadlocked at 2-2.

The winning goal was potted by Blake Comeau, who was on the doorstep of Leaf goaltender Frederik Andersen when he deflected a shot from the left side by Carl Soderberg at the 12 minute, 17 second mark.

The affair was then brought to an end when Gabriel Landeskog put Colorado's fourth goal into an empty net with 53.7 seconds remaining.

Gabriel Bourque and Nail Yakupov also scored for Colorado while Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau responded for Toronto.

For the second straight game the Leafs were without top defenceman Morgan Rielly as he continues to convalesce from that bane of many a hockey player, the nagging upper body malady.

Earlier in the day, the Leafs announced that they were placing Rielly on injured reserve, meaning he can't return to the lineup until next week at the earliest.

The surprising Avalanche came into Monday's game as the hottest team in the NHL, their 3-1 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday night their ninth in a row. It is the longest winning streak in the league this season.

With the run the Avs, who finished with the worst record in the NHL last season, are sitting smack-dab in the middle of a playoff position in the Western Conference. The team has already surpassed their overall point total from a year ago.

A lot of the credit for the turnaround goes to centre Nathan MacKinnon who is proving that Sidney Crosby is not the only prolific offensive force to have graduated from the Cole Harbour, N.S., minor hockey league system.

MacKinnon entered the contest on a nine-game point streak, his 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists) good for second place in the NHL scoring race.

"He's a good player, he's obviously second in the league in scoring, he's on fire right now and their team is playing real well," Babcock said before the game.

While the Leafs did a good job of holding MacKinnon in check, keeping him off the scoresheet, it was not enough to subdue the Avalanche.

While the Avalanche are surging, the Leafs have been sputtering with a 1-2-3 record in their last six outings.

Toronto's next game is Wednesday in Chicago against the Blackhawks.

Some suspect defensive play by the Leafs allowed the Avalanche to capitalize early for a 1-0 lead in the first period.

Colorado's Tyson Post emerged unscathed from behind the Toronto net with the puck and fired a close-in shot that Andersen turned aside.

But the big rebound landed on the stick of Bourque with nary a Leaf rearguard to be found and the winger found the back of the net at the 2:19 mark for just his second goal of the season.

The Leafs squandered a decent chance to pull even at the period's midway point when they had a two-man advantage for 1:11.

But Toronto failed to mount much of a challenge which perhaps was not that surprising given the Leafs were going up against the league's No. 2 penalty killing unit.

Toronto had only one good scoring chance - that by William Nylander who broke in all alone on Jonathan Bernier only to be stonewalled by the former Leaf goaltender.

Whatever Babcock had to say to the Leafs between periods the players took it to heart.

It only took 19 seconds of the second period before Marleau got the equalizer, stepping into a nice soft pass from Leo Komarov at the top of the left circle, his rising slapper rocketing into the far upper corner of the Colorado net.

For Marleau, it was his 16th of the season.

It was a great shot but one Bernier perhaps might have wanted wanted back. Certainly the Leafs faithful felt so, erupting into a mocking chorus of "Bernier, Bernier" when play resumed.

The Leafs felt certain that they had earned a 2-1 lead at the 7:36 mark when Matthews tipped one past Bernier during a goal-mouth scramble.

Much to the consternation of the Leafs faithful, the goal was wiped out after a ruling of goaltender interference.

Babcock said afterward he doesn't even know what goaltender interference is anymore.

"I just got texts from half the coaches telling me it should have been a goal…but I'm not worried about that," Babcock said. "I just thought we played good enough, generated enough chances. They didn't generate that many chances."

Matthews made up for his disallowed goal shortly after, pounding home a big Bernier rebound for his team-leading 21st goal on his next shift for a one-goal Toronto advantage at 9:17.

Just over a minute later, Yakupov sent one past Andersen after a great cross-ice feed from Alexander Kerfroot that once again tied things up.

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley says some of the team has been training together for the last two weeks even as training camp only officially started Monday. Bradley says the team’s first game is just over a month away.

The Canadian Press

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