DENVER – Wins have been few and far between for the Colorado Avalanche, especially in the past few weeks.
Indeed, their hopes of making a run at the Stanley Cup Playoffs have disappeared with eight losses in nine games.
Now, reduced to playing the role of spoiler, the Avalanche managed some semblance of satisfaction Saturday with a 1-0 overtime victory against the Nashville Predators at the Pepsi Center.
Goalie Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves and rookie defenseman Tyson Barrie scored 50 seconds into the extra period as the Avalanche snapped a four-game losing streak and continued the Predators' woes on the road.
While the Predators salvaged a valuable point to remain in the hunt for a Western Conference postseason berth, the loss was their fifth in a row on the road, where they've gone 1-9-2 in the past dozen games and are 5-11-3 overall.
"We are still in the race and it is still in our own hands," said Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who stopped 23 shots, 10 in the third period. "We have to get some points, get some wins here. Their goalie played really well and we didn't score any goals and we did not get the win."
Saturday's game was a far cry from the teams' first meeting Feb. 18, when the Avalanche chased starter Chris Mason in the second period en route to a 6-5 win.
"[Varlamov] was outstanding. He stole the show," said Avalanche center Matt Duchene, who was stopped by Rinne on a 2-on-1 rush in the first period. "Him and Rinne both played outstanding. I would say that (Varlamov) stole the game, except that their goalie played just as well. It was a great effort by both of them."
Varlamov acknowledged that a lack of confidence has affected his play and that of the Avalanche in general. The Avalanche are in last place in the Western Conference and 29th in the overall standings.
"For sure it's a big win, especially when things are not going great for the team and me especially," said Varlamov, who posted his third shutout of the season and 11th of his NHL career. "Lots of games, I'm giving up three or four goals. I felt good the whole game. When you have confidence, you play well. When you're not confident, you feel like you're not an NHL goalie."
Varlamov was especially good when the Avalanche were shorthanded. He made 12 saves during six Predators power plays, which included a two-man advantage in the first period that lasted 33 seconds. The Predators also had what turned into a four-minute power play spanning the second and third periods after Avalanche defenseman Ryan O'Byrne iced the puck and high-sticked Brandon Yip in the face on the ensuing faceoff to earn a double minor.
"Our goaltender was outstanding," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "He played great for us. He came up with very timely saves, especially on the 5-on-3 in the first period, and that's what you need to help you get out of a little bit of a ditch sometimes."
The Avalanche haven't gotten much offense from their defense this season, but Barrie and partner Greg Zanon hooked up for the winning goal. Right wing PA Parenteau passed to Zanon for a shot that Rinne stopped, but Barrie pinched down the right side to bang in the rebound.
Barrie, who was recalled March 25 from the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League, has two of the three goals scored by Avalanche defenseman this season.
"It was nice to get that one at the end there," Barrie said. "[The rebound] just kind of popped out. I just barely got it and it bounced into the net. I knew [Zanon] was probably going to one-time it, so I was just trying to get back-door and hopefully it would pop out. I was lucky it did."
Barrie figured he wouldn't have been in position to collect the winning goal if Varlamov hadn't played as well as he did.
"He was outstanding," Barrie said. "That might have been one of the best games I've ever seen a goalie play. He made five, six, seven highlight reel saves. Tip your hat to him; he played awesome."
Predators coach Barry Trotz didn't seem too upset by the outcome.
"I look at it, we played very well, we had a lot of chances," Trotz said. "The first star was their goalie, and we weren't able to convert on our power play. We had a lot of chances, so that was the end. They got a puck in the overtime. I'm not going to go in my room and say we played poorly, we played pretty well against a high-powered team. The star of the game was Varlamov. I can't think of anybody who played poorly. Any point on the road is a good point. Obviously we want two points, but we'll take one point, better than none."
Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk sustained a shoulder injury halfway through the first period and didn't return. There was no further update after the game.
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