The Colorado Avalanche knew that it was going to have to work hard to get any points in Tennessee and that strategy paid off as the Avs scored late in regulation to grab a point in a 4-3 overtime loss.
While the end result wasn’t what Colorado wanted, the effort throughout the night speaks to Colorado’s ability to play with the best in the league.
The Avs took the first lead of the game at the 11:52 mark of the first period when gritty forward Cody McLeod redirected a one-time blast from Zach Redmond up at the Predators blue line to beat netminder Carter Hutton.
“We had great net-front presence there. [John Mitchell] kind of crawled up the wall and laid a flat pass,” Redmond said of the play. “The way these guys are structured in their ‘D’ zone, they cram it in down low, and it left me kind of open for a split second and Cody was able to get a great stick on it.”
The Avalanche continued to play a solid game in the first, with everyone on the roster coming together to keep the lead. Ryan O'Reilly made a big, diving play to block a shot and Semyon Varlamov was solid throughout.
“I think we came out with great energy,” said Redmond. “Any time you can come away with a one-goal lead on the road in the first period, I’d say you’re doing pretty good.”
The first-period success came from playing a simple, structured game against Nashville.
“The key early is to get your feet going and keep things simple,” said rear guard Brad Stuart. “Make sure you’re skating and making simple plays and not trying to do too much.”
The Predators countered with the next two tallies in the middle stanza, including a power-play point, but Colorado wasn’t ready to lie down just yet. Jarome Iginla picked up his 15th goal of the season on a tic-tac-toe play that started with an Alex Tanguay drop pass.
Duchene picked up the puck and dished a backhander to Iginla, who fired the rubber through a defender and into the far corner of the net to tie the game at two apiece.
“I thought we had a very good first period,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “I have to give them credit. It’s a team that plays with a lot of intensity, and in the second, they really took advantage of the play.”
The Avalanche had to battle back once more in the final frame, speaking to the mental fortitude of a squad pushing for a playoff berth. Down 3-2 after Filip Forsberg scored just 32 seconds into the last period, it would take nearly the entire stanza to get the equalizer, which capped off a night of keeping pace with the Predators.
Nick Holden proved to be a late-game hero in the end, scooping a loose puck into the cage to tie the game while the Avs had an empty net at the other end of the ice.
“We just found a way to stay in that game and battle through. That was a big goal by Jarome, and they scored early in the third, but I thought our guys did a good job to stay focused,” said Roy. “We did not panic, and then we scored that big goal at the end when we pulled the goalie to tie the game at three.
“We missed the net at times, but I thought they did a good job protecting. This is a good defense. They’ve got six good ‘D’ playing well, and you’ve got to work hard to get your shots on net, not scoring chances, just a shot on net. And I thought our guys did a good job.”
Colorado couldn’t come out with the two points in the end though, falling 4-3 after Craig Smith converted on a breakaway in overtime.
PLAYING WITHOUT JOHNSON
Erik Johnson isn’t an easy man to replace, but the Colorado Avalanche are looking to do just that for the next three to eight weeks while Johnson is recovering from a knee scope. He leads the team in ice time (24:45) and defensemen in goals (12), and has been a pivotal part of the Avalanche blueline.
Without Johnson in the lineup in Nashville, rear guard Zach Redmond got a chance to show what he can do. He played 22:31 in the 4-3 defeat, good for second on the team behind Tyson Barrie, and finished with an assist and five shots while playing alongside Jan Hejda.
When asked how he would adjust to his new role, Redmond said that the maintaining the status quo was the best thing for him.
“To be honest, I haven’t changed a thing. I think that’s part of being a pro. Whether you get these opportunities or you don’t, you’ve got to stay ready and you’ve got to be on top of it,” said Redmond. “You never want your opportunity to come at the expense of someone else, but I’m definitely looking forward to making the most of it and seeing where it goes.”
The change in defensive pairings carried through the entire lineup for Colorado, bringing new duos to the ice and requiring additional communication in order to maintain consistency.
“You try to work together, there’s no secret formula. You just talk and make sure you’re working things out on the ice and in between shifts,” said Brad Stuart of the scenario. “You don’t want to over analyze. You want to make sure you’re communicating and making sure you’re on the same page.”
In the end, the Avalanche got some big points from players stepping up on the night. Nick Holden potted the game-tying goal in the waning seconds and Redmond’s first period shot was deflected into the Nashville net by Cody McLeod for the first tally of the game.
Speaking of McLeod, the winger was rewarded for his hard work on Tuesday with an increased workload by Patrick Roy. McLeod played 14:19 in the game, including 1:57 of power-play time.
For the 30-year-old tough guy, more playing time gives him a chance to contribute more.
“It’s awesome. It’s a lot easier to play when you’re getting some minutes,” said McLeod, who had an easy strategy for his time on ice. “It’s simple. Just get to the front of the net, work hard in the corners, get the puck back and, like I said, get to the front of the net.”
That’s exactly what he did on the first tally of the night, redirecting a point shot into the twine. With the first-period goal—his fourth of the year—and an early fight with Paul Gaustad, McLeod was just an assist away from a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
McLeod’s bout in the opening stanza was another career milestone for the winger. It was his 100th NHL scuffle.