When Gabriel Landeskog has an angle to the net, it’s hard to stop him.
Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks found out the hard way on Wednesday night at Honda Center as Landeskog scored shorthanded and the eventual game-winner in the Avalanche’s 4-1 victory.
Coming from his own end of the ice, the Colorado captain took the puck through the neutral zone and along the Ducks’ left-wing wall before turned on the jets, cut inside and blew past the Anaheim captain Getzlaf. He then let loose a backhand shot that deflected off Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller and into the back of the cage.
The goal, his eighth of the season, gave Colorado a 2-0 lead and came while Anaheim had 20 seconds left on a power play opportunity at 4:07 of the second period.
Landeskog has now scored three short-handed goals this season, which is the most in the Western Conference and the second-most in the league behind New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk, who has four.
It is the first time since the 2006-07 campaign that an Avalanche player had scored three short-handed tallies in a season (Brad Richardson, 3).
It’s about time. That’s all I can say. We came out and established a good game here. - Matt Duchene in the second intermission on Colorado's 4-1 lead
Landeskog’s previous two short-handed goals this year came on back-to-back games on March 18 against Chicago and March 20 against Dallas. It was the first time that a Colorado player had scored short-handed goals in consecutive games since Joe Sakic did it on Feb 23-25, 2001.
The Avalanche was up 3-1 on the scoreboard late in the second period, but it seemed as if the Ducks were starting to grab some of the momentum as Teemu Selanne had just scored and they were going on a power play after Paul Stastny was called for hooking at 15:18.
But Colorado responded and retook control of the game with stellar defense on the penalty kill. The Avs did not allow Anaheim a single-shot during the power play and scored their own goal 12 seconds after it expired.
Coming out of the box, Stastny forced defenseman Luca Sbisa to mishandle the puck at his own blue line and David Van Der Gulik was there to chase it down along the right boards. He then flipped it back to Jamie McGinn, who patiently waited at the faceoff circle before firing a wrist shot into the top-half of the net, knocking off the water bottle.
The Avs went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill against the Ducks and have now killed off their last 11 shorthanded chances. Colorado went 6-for-6 on the penalty kill on Monday against Calgary, matching a season-best.
Anaheim will always be a special place to Colorado goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere as it was the team that he won the Conn Smythe Trophy with in 2003 as the playoff MVP and later won the Stanley Cup Championship with in 2007.
However his former club is also a squad that he has played well against. Giguere picked up his fourth career win against the Ducks and is now 4-1-1 all-time against the Southern California franchise that gave him a chance to solidify himself in the NHL during the 2000-01 season.
He stopped 21 shots on Wednesday night, with the puck from Teemu Selanne’s shot midway through the middle stanza being the only one to get passed him.
“I didn’t want to give them any chance to come back,” Giguere said. “We did a good job of scoring some goals, get a lead and the last thing that you want is to give up a softy or a bad goal that would give them some energy and give them a reason to believe. Combined with the fact that we played an amazing game in front of me, all I had to do was make the first save.”
Giguere has now started in net for Colorado in four of the last five games. The Avs’ usual starting netminder, Semyon Varlamov, is not on the two-game California trip after he strained his hip during Monday’s pregame skate.