The result: a 5-2 victory in outstanding fashion.
“We’re going to need that. We’re going to need to be hot, and this is two in a row that we’ve won, but we also feel like we’re playing the right way,” said Jarome Iginla after the match. “If we keep that up, we’re going to get some good results.”
The win saw goals from all areas of the Avalanche lineup. Cody McLeod tallied off his own rebound to kick off the scoring, and Matt Duchene responded in kind just nine seconds later to give the Avs a 2-0 lead 3:03 into the game.
“Cody McLeod came out, and he was going full tilt. Made a great hit, and then got a big goal for us to start us off and we were just able to score another one right after,” Duchene said of the one-two punch. “[Zach Redmond] hit Iggy on a nice play, and he found me back door. It was a great start for us, the start we wanted, and we were able to follow it through pretty much the whole game.”
By the time the first period ended, Colorado had managed to net goals from two different lines and added a power-play tally from defenseman Nick Holden for good measure.
Goals from Tyson Barrie and Gabriel Landeskog capped off the middle frame, highlighting an all-out effort from all areas of the lineup that was so strong it didn’t allow the Coyotes to register a single shot on net in the period.
“I think it’s all the way around. It’s not just in our defensive zone. It’s not just the offensive zone. I thought guys worked hard on the offense, kept them in,” said Iginla of the club’s overall play. “We spent a lot of time in their zone, which you always hear: a good defense is a good offense, or whatever. So we were able to do that tonight, but when we did get it back in our zone, we were able to break out quickly.
“We also, as a group of forwards—we’re working on it but—we’re tracking back and picking up the right guys to try to give them nothing and give our ‘D’ a chance to step up. It felt like an all-the-way-around team effort, and guys were in sync and we want to keep that going and keep getting better.”
“I think everybody enjoyed that one,” added Duchene. “Everybody, top to bottom, played outstanding tonight, and both goalies played great for us.”
Holding an opponent to zero shots in 20 minutes of play is no easy feat, but it’s also the result of playing the majority of the time in the opponent’s zone.
“We felt like, because we were so good offensively it led to a good defense there. I think we played the whole period in their end,” Duchene said, crediting the fourth line for its hard work in keeping the assault going. “Our fourth line went out there, they drew two penalties tonight. The first one shot over the glass, and then the other one was, I think, a tired penalty by them. They did a great job, especially in that second period to hem them in, and our goalies were there when we needed them.”
It would appear that the line adjustments—specifically to the Duchene, Mitchell, and Cliche-centered trios—have created the right kind of chemical reaction.
“I think sometimes you just change lines up, and for whatever reason you can get a spark from it or not. I think all the way through our lineup we’re getting some good chemistry,” said Iginla. “I think [Alex Tanguay] with [John Mitchell] and [Dennis] Everberg, they were great tonight. They had a ton of chances, especially early, and put a lot of pressure on them.
“Ryan O'Reilly’s line stayed the same, but they’ve been getting better and better and better. We’re playing Dutchy, myself and [Maxime Talbot] together, and I like it. We’re trying to work hard, and we’ve been able to create some chances. And [Marc-Andre Cliche] and [McLeod] have good chemistry together. They play a lot.”
These past two wins have been huge for the Avalanche, which needs each and every point it can get its hands on in order to make a legitimate push for a playoff berth. Things are rolling offensively, but that doesn’t mean the team is ready to ride the wave of success. Veterans like Iginla have lived through the ups and downs of a season and know that a small sample size means little in the long run. The focus must remain on the overall objective.
“These last couple have been good for us, there’s no question about that, but it is just two games. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves. We know we have to make up a long way, but we still have 25 games left. It’s pretty much a third of a season,” Iginla said. “We’re building, and we’re concentrating on those things. The last couple games it’s felt good, and we want to keep it going.
“We’re going to have another big one against L.A., but the big ones, they’re all fun at this time of year. They all mean so much. We’ll get some rest, and then we want to continue doing what we were doing these last couple games for sure.”
Ultimately, a group effort is what will make or break the hopes for some playoff action.
“We’re going to need every line,” said Iginla. “There’s going to be big goals scored from different lines at different times, and it’s felt good these last couple.”
A MILESTONE NIGHT
It was an evening of achievements at Pepsi Center, as multiple milestones of differing degrees came to fruition in the 5-2 victory.
Cody McLeod kicked off the scoring at the 2:54 mark of the first period, burying his own rebound behind Arizona goaltender Mike McKenna. The goal was McLeod’s 100th career point, capping off a campaign that has seen him record his franchise-record seventh season with 100 or more penalty minutes, break the century mark in career fights, surpass 1,000 penalty minutes in his time in the NHL and appear in his 500th league game.
With an assist on the first goal, recalled forward Paul Carey recorded his first NHL point. Carey has played 17 games with the Avalanche since the 2013-14 season.
The Avs struck again just nine seconds later, on Matt Duchene’s goal, tying a franchise record for the fastest two tallies. The feat has been done twice before, Oct. 17, 1997 at Calgary (Jon Klemm twice) and Jan. 23, 2003 at Edmonton (Adam Foote and Chris Drury).
Duchene notched his second point of the night on Nick Holden’s power-play goal in the first period, bringing his career point total to 300 (120 goals, 180 assists) in just 394 games played. The 24-year-old center made his NHL debut as an 18-year-old, playing 81 games and recording 24 goals and 31 assists as a freshman player. He has 15 goals and 22 assists through 57 games this year, good for third on the team in tallies and points (37).
“It’s a nice milestone, but right now that’s not the important thing. The important thing is to win, and now we’ve just got to keep going,” said Duchene, keeping the focus on the future. “As a line, we would have liked to even have a couple more, but that keeps us hungry and we’re going to be real hungry against L.A. That’s going to be a big game for us.”
Colorado’s defense was also on point throughout the game, but especially in the second period. The Avs held the Coyotes to exactly zero shots on goal during the middle stanza, setting a franchise record for the least amount of shots against in a single frame. The previous total was one shot allowed, executed eight separate times. The last time it happened was Jan. 14, 2002 at Dallas.
Arizona had five shots in the first period.
“I think it happened for the first time in my NHL career,” said goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who was impressed with the overall lack of action in his direction. “It doesn’t happen every game, but you know what, I’ll take those five shots once in a while.”
A LONG TIME COMING
The struggle has been real for the Colorado Avalanche power play, which—entering Monday night’s contest—had been on an 11-game drought.
That all changed against the Coyotes when, at 14:58 of the first period, Nick Holden had a rip from the point that beat Mike McKenna. The goal was his fifth of the season.
“It was good. Obviously, our offense is rolling now a little bit better, and it’s nice to get a power play goal,” said Matt Duchene.
The play, a shot from on high through traffic, was precisely what head coach Patrick Roy said he’s been looking for.
“The way we scored, Tanguay had a great screen in front of the net. It’s exactly what we’ve been talking [about] all along,” he said. “You don’t have to be perfect all the time, those tic-tac-toe plays around the net. Just a good wrister on net, over the goalie’s pad, and a good screen in front. That’s how he scored.”
Colorado’s previous power-play tally came on a Holden goal on Jan. 15 in a 4-2 Avalanche win over the Florida Panthers.
TWO GOALIES, ONE WIN
Semyon Varlamov recorded the victory on Monday night, but the 26-year-old netminder didn’t play a second of the third period. It wasn’t due to injury, cramps or fatigue, but rather because the score was such that Reto Berra could come in to give the starter—who had made his 13 consecutive start between the pipes—a chance to take a break.
|Semyon Varlamov |
So with a 5-1 score and a 27-5 shot differential, Patrick Roy sent in Berra to close out the contest. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the first time that Varlamov had been replaced in a game he was winning—with no injury concern.
“I’ve been pulled after the second period a couple times,” Varlamov said. “That was Patrick’s decision today, pulling me after the second period and then giving the chance to play Reto.”
While a little rest could do the goaltender some good, he said he doesn’t prefer to spend time watching games from the bench.
“It is nice, but I can tell you I like to play. I like to play every game, but the schedule is not easy,” Varlamov said. “I think the coaching staff sees that. That’s why they gave me the chance to get some rest.”
Largely untested during the second period—despite the Coyotes not registering a shot on goal, the club did have some attempts in the direction of the net—Varlamov admitted that the lack of action can be a challenge in itself.
“It’s pretty tough mentally to stay focused in the game when you don’t have shots,” he said. “I don’t know how other goalies try to stay focused.
“For me, it’s pretty tough.”
Well after the victory, Roy joked about his motives for putting Berra into the match.
“I read the paper this morning and [Denver Post Reporter] Terry [Frei] said I should play Berra and give him a shot, and that’s exactly what I did,” Roy laughed. “It was good to give a bit of a rest to Varly. He’s playing a lot of games.”
Berra’s third-period play was the first NHL action he’s seen since he started on Dec. 5 against the Winnipeg Jets.