ST. PAUL, Minn—The Colorado Avalanche did a lot of good things on the four-game road trip that saw stops in New York, New Jersey and Minnesota, but the club couldn’t pull out a final victory on Saturday night.
Playing in their fourth game in six days, the Avs fell at the hands of the Minnesota Wild in a 3-0 decision at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The good news?
Semyon Varlamov was solid between the pipes for the second time in as many games, turning aside a season high-41 shots to keep the game close. He denied the majority of everything he saw, but a tipped shot and a blast through traffic were enough to decide the game.
“He was phenomenal, and we didn’t play a good game in front of him,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said after the contest. “There’s no doubt about it. That’s a positive for us, the way he played.”
“He was outstanding. He gave us a chance to win, and we’ve got to give him some goal support there,” defenseman Brandon Gormley added. “He kept us in it all game, and like I said, we’ve got to try to help him out as best we can.”
Minnesota was tenacious in its approach, peppering Colorado throughout the night and keeping the visiting team on its heels for most of the match. The Avs escaped the first period deadlocked at 0-0, but they couldn’t manage to solve Devan Dubnyk or Darcy Kemper after that—Dubnyk left the game in the second period with a lower body injury.
“I thought we were in good shape [after the first]. I’ve seen that many, many times when I was a player. When we played in The Garden or tough buildings, if you were even it was a good chance to regroup,” Roy said. “But tonight they were the better team. They were first on pucks. They were competing better than us. They won those 1-on-1 battles better than us, and they were quicker than us for some reason. They played a really good game.
“Tonight, they were sharper than us. I thought we had some moments in the game where we did a few good things, but it was clearly not enough. There’s no doubt about it. What they do really well is they’re really quick on pucks and they forecheck hard and they put a lot of pressure on our ‘D.’ We were a little sloppy coming back to help our ‘D.'”
Solid goaltending can win games, even when the ice begins to tilt. That’s the kind of effort that Colorado wants from it’s No. 1 netminder, and he’ll get the chance to do it all over again on Monday when Minnesota comes to Denver to conclude a home-and-home set.
“We’ve got to come back to work,” Gormley said of Monday’s contest. “We obviously know they’re a good team and what they’re all about. That’s a tough pill to swallow right now, but at the same time that’s fresh in our mind, and we’ve got another chance at them here in a couple days.”
The Avs are now 8-9 on the road and lead the NHL with 17 away games under their belt with roughly a third of the season behind them. While the record is decent, losing division games makes things much harder for the team.
“Six and five in our last 11 road games. It’s not bad, but you want to win games you play in your division,” Roy said. “It was a good chance for us to get closer to these guys, but they played really good.”
Some could find a way to turn Colorado’s recent slate of contests out of state as a reason for the up and down play, as the club is playing 18-of-25 games away from Pepsi Center. Nobody on the team would agree, though.
“We can’t use excuses. We knew the importance of this one, and we weren’t good enough tonight. They were a lot better than us,” veteran forward Jarome Iginla said. “We have played a ton of road games. We’ve been on the road a lot, but we’ve found a way to kind of have a solid road record. It gives ourselves a chance to stay in it, but every time we lose one, it’s a big one. The next two now are so much more important when you get behind.”
“We won’t look for excuses right now. We just want to focus on one game at a time, and that’s the approach we try to have,” Roy added. “It’s a lot of games, but eventually we’re going to play a lot of games at home. That will be a good opportunity. We want to be as close as possible then. The next two games at home, especially against the Wild on Monday, will be important for us.”
The Avalanche concluded its four-game trip with a 2-2 record, which isn’t what the team wanted as it battles to get back into the playoff picture.
“No, it’s not good enough,” Iginla said. “We’ve been playing better, but tonight was one that we wanted to continue with how we were playing and keep building that momentum we talk about a lot. Trying to get that swagger and get back into it, but tonight, we didn’t keep that going. From this long group of road games we’ve been playing, we know we’ve been playing pretty well overall, but we know we have to win 2-out-of-3, 3-out-of-4, stuff like that. This was a big one tonight. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it.”
700 AND COUNTING
Veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin skated in his 700th career game in Saturday night’s defeat.
He finished the contest with two shots, one hit, one takeaway, two blocked shots and 25:22 of ice time.
The 34-year-old Quebec native made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 27, 2003, and has gone on to skate with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Anaheim Ducks since then.
He has 232 points (62 goals, 170 assists) in his 700 contests to date and regularly leads the Avalanche in time on ice.
He won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks during the 2006-07 season.