PITTSBURGH--While it wasn't the start the Colorado Avalanche had hoped for, the club is still off to a good beginning, both in the young 2016-17 season and on the current four-game road trip, after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday.
"I'm glad we found a way to pull it out there. I think we had some guys that were horses for us tonight and carried the rest of the guys on our team," said head coach Jared Bednar. "So, we found a way to get it done. It wasn't pretty, but we had some guys that made some big plays in order for us to get the victory."
Pittsburgh got on the board first, putting away a power-play goal (Phil Kessel) at the 8:57-mark and then following that up with an even-strength marker (Matt Cullen) 36 seconds later.
The Avs didn't falter though, and after regrouping with strong attacks of their own, they countered with two quick tallies to tie the contest 2-2.
Jarome Iginla started off the comeback when he converted a shot from atop the far circle to pot the 612th goal of his 20-year career. Rear guard Patrick Wiercioch followed suit 1:23 later when his point shot found its way through traffic and behind goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Video: Coach Jared Bednar talks about the 4-3 OT win
The first marker came on the power play, which was an area of focus for the Avalanche last week.
"I think the guys worked really hard at it earlier in the week. We had a couple days there. We had the luxury of having a long practice week, so we were able to hit our power play a couple times," said Bednar, commenting on the man-advantage work prior to the game. "They worked hard at it, and they did a good job of getting to the net."
With the tally, Iginla moved past former Avalanche forward Pierre Turgeon (190) on the NHL's all-time power-play goals list. The score put him only 13 behind Joe Sakic, who is 15th on the league's all-time goal-leader chart.
The Penguins countered in the final frame, beating goalkeeper Calvin Pickard with a power-play blast through traffic just moments after having a marker called back for interference.
Not to be outdone, Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog responded with a man-advantage rip from inside the faceoff circle to force the Avs back into contention.
It was Landeskog who would end it, too. Just 22 seconds into the overtime period, he deflected a shot from Nathan MacKinnon that caromed up in the air and into the net for the win.
"I think we obviously got a good power-play goal at the end of the third there to force it to overtime and give us a chance to win the game. Obviously, a lucky bounce in overtime," Landeskog said following the triumph. "I think I kind of just swung at it. Overall, it's important to get the two points, but as a group we got a lot better with our decision making and plays with the puck."
Pickard stopped 28 shots in the win, which was his first game in net as backup tender of the Avs.
Video: Gabriel Landeskog discusses the victory
"We're not giving up. I think they have a belief in there that we can come and win every night, and that's what you need," said Bednar. "Your attitude is one of the biggest factors in how you're going to play every night. I didn't think we had our best stuff tonight, that's for sure. I thought they outplayed us for the bulk of the game, but we found a way to create enough chances and kind of fight back after a slow start again."
Although the season just started, the Avalanche now has two power-play goals in each of its first two games.
"Our power play struggled the last couple seasons, no secret," said Nathan MacKinnon. "Gabe had a big goal; great pass from [Mikhail Grigorenko]. Yeah, it's nice. We struggled during the preseason as well, so it's nice to see a couple go in."
Colorado has only the night to celebrate topping the defending Stanley Cup champions before returning to action Tuesday to take on the Washington Capitals in the thrilling conclusion of this back-to-back set on the road.
"It's going to be a tough one. Short turnaround, back-to-back. We talked about it before, this is going to be a big test for us, this road trip, playing against a lot of good teams," Bednar said. "I just like the confidence that our guys have. I think that is the key. We'll give them their rest in the morning and get ready to go for tomorrow night."
IGINLA'S GOAL A SPECIAL ONE
It would be easy to think that every goal that Jarome Iginla has scored since No. 600 is of little importance to him personally. That would be an error in judgement though, as the last two tallies hold particular meaning to the 20-year NHL veteran and his family.
Video: Jarome Iginla talks about his 20th NHL season
When asked on Sunday about how each and every goal, assist and game played moves him up the storied lists in the league's annals, Iginla replied that markers No. 611 and 612 were important to his two young boys.
"I have two boys and a daughter, but the boys wanted a puck. One's favorite number was 11 so he wanted 611 and my other boy wants 612," he said before leaving for Pittsburgh. "I do want to remember to pick that up for him. I think that's cool that they enjoy that and want a keepsake and stuff."
His family was watching the game back home when he scored, and he'll be bringing that puck back with him to Denver.
It has already been a season of firsts for Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. On Saturday, the first-time NHL bench manager picked up his first victory when Colorado outscored the Dallas Stars 6-5.
On Monday, the rookie added another first to his stat line when he not only won his first road contest--in overtime no less--but he also came out on the right side of challenging a goal scored by Evgeni Malkin.
As soon as the puck was in the net, goaltender Calvin Pickard was up and pleading his case to the officials, saying contact was made. For a time, he was perhaps the only member of the Avs who knew that something had happened on the play.
Video: Calvin Pickard talks about the win
Upon review, not only had Colorado defenseman Fedor Tyutin collided with Pickard, but Malkin had slashed the keeper's arm and glove, turning him out of position as the Penguins forward cruised through the crease.
"It was pretty stressful, I guess. I felt that hack on my arm, and everybody didn't really see it except me. I felt it. It kind of threw me off balance," Pickard said. "The scary thing was that it was a couple seconds until they shot it in the net, but I believe that it affected how I would have played it. But it was tough to tell. That challenge gives the refs the ability to make the right call, which is nice."
The referees conferred, watched replays and eventually concluded that contact had been made. The call was overturned.
"He got a piece of Picks' glove, so I mean it was big. Obviously, they got one after that to take the lead again and then we were able to answer on the power play," Bednar said. "But I could tell by Picks' reaction that there was some contact there, and he didn't like it."
The Avs were 3-for-7 in coach's challenges last season.