It appears the Avs found what they were looking for in an important 4-3 shootout win.
Prior to the contest, head coach Patrick Roy worked with the squad on some systematic changes, which seem to have helped Colorado find its knack for scoring. All of the top players were firing on all cylinders and the support cast was at the top of its game as well.
“Tonight they were solid. I thought they all had a great game. I think they just needed a bit more confidence. Early on in the game, we were looking at our chances and we were like ‘wow,’” said Roy after the win. “I loved our effort at the start of the game. I liked our effort for 65 minutes tonight. We were skating well, we were working hard, we tried to sustain the pressure on our offensive-zone play. In the second period, we had about seven minutes of puck possession. It was one of our best all year.”
The adjustments to the game were noticeable for the players as well.
“We made some changes that we felt like were going to make our system better, and we felt a lot more comfortable out there. We felt more confident, and felt like we were supporting each other and backing each other up. It made a big difference,” said Gabriel Landeskog. “Tonight, I think [it was] just a confidence level. We were making plays and supporting each other all over the ice, and [it] certainly felt like we weren’t going to be stopped tonight.”
The Avs scored just 31 seconds into the contest after a scramble in front of the Maple Leafs crease drew goaltender Jonathan Bernier out of the blue paint. Nathan MacKinnon circled behind the goal and fed the puck to defenseman Nick Holden—who had pinched in to support—for an easy shot into the empty net.
Toronto equalized late in the first after Phil Kessel batted a rebound out of midair and into the net in an incredible display of prowess.
The Leafs scored the next goal of the game as well—in the middle frame—but Colorado responded a minute later when Alex Tanguay caught a pass from Zach Redmond while balancing on Toronto’s blue line, burned into the zone uncontested and deked Bernier before dishing the puck in between the pipes.
The points kept coming in the third as Matt Duchene gave the Avs what appeared to be the go-ahead goal with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third, but Toronto caught a lucky break and had a puck careen into the net with less than two minutes left in regulation to tie the game once more.
The match went to overtime, and thanks to late penalties to Jarome Iginla and Stephane Robidas, the bonus hockey featured nearly two minutes of exciting, three-on-three action.
“It was an unfortunate goal against us to tie things up and send it to overtime, but the boys stuck with it,” said Duchene. “We had fun with that game. Three-on-three in overtime, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Even Roy said it’s something he doesn’t see regularly.
“Not very often, but I thought it was very entertaining. It was pretty open,” said Roy. “From a fans perspective, that was outstanding. That was fun for them, and we put out two forwards because we just wanted to go for it.”
Nobody scored in the extra minutes, but it hardly mattered for Colorado, which put home all three shots—from Nathan MacKinnon, Duchene and Tanguay—in the shootout to take the victory.
“It’s nice to have this win. It was hard at the end there, on the skate and in. It was a tough one, but now it’s okay,” said Reto Berra, who stopped 33 shots and one-of-two shootout attempts. “We won in the shootout. It was easy for me. We scored three out of three. We played a really good game today, and we deserved to win.”
“He was great. He’s been great for us every time he’s started this season,” Duchene said of his netminder. “I think we have two of the best shootout goalies in the NHL, those two guys. We’ve been doing shootouts with Reto after pregame skate everyday and you can’t score on the guy. I go like 1-for-10 against him. He’s so good and so patient.
“He’s playing unbelievable for us. He played awesome tonight.”
The win gives Colorado a big boost to take with it on the road, but it isn’t something that Roy and company are going to spend time lauding.
“I am very positive with this performance, but I don’t want to overreact,” the coach said. “I want to make sure to stay very humble, and see how we’re going to play against Philly.”
“It’s nice to have this one, but we’re down still in the standings. We want to keep going. It was a good first step today,” said Berra. “We played really good, really solid in our own zone. The guys helped me a lot today, and we’re going in the right direction, I think.”
The Avalanche face the Philadelphia Flyers in Pennsylvania on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT.
Colorado’s streak of 29 consecutive penalty kills came to an end in the second period on Bozak’s power-play goal. It was the club’s longest single-season streak since 1998-99, when the Avalanche killed off 35 straight from Oct. 31 to Nov. 17, 1998.
Holden scored the fastest goal to begin a game by an Avalanche player this season.
Ryan O'Reilly tallied his 200th career point with an assist on Duchene’s goal.
Max Talbot appeared in his 600th NHL game.
Colorado’s 19 shots in the first period were the club’s most in a single period this season.
Tanguay leads the team in goals with five.
Roy gave updates earlier today on the various injuries that are impacting the Avalanche. Defenseman Brad Stuart is expected to miss around 14 days with a hamstring issue.
“Two weeks. Roughly two weeks,” the coach said. “It’s a loss, but again, you look around the league, everybody’s affected by injuries.”
Forward Jesse Winchester remains out of the lineup as his health hasn’t improved to a consistent level.
“It’s up and down. He has good days and he has bad days," said Roy. “Until he [has] seven or eight good days in a row, he’s not going to play.”
Ryan Wilson, who injured his shoulder on Oct. 24, is close to being healthy.
“Everything is on pace for him to be back in a short period of time,” Roy said.