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Avs Fall On Wrong Side Of Goaltending Duel

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

It’s early in the third period. The score is tied at zero. The puck is lifted high in the air and out of the Pittsburgh Penguins zone, falling right to Sidney Crosby at the Colorado Avalanche blue line. ‘Sid the Kid’ skates in alone on a breakaway, looks up at rookie goaltender Calvin Pickard and fires the puck on net.

With the poise and skill of a wily veteran, Pickard flashes the glove, and before you can blink he’s made a pretty save on one of the best and most lethal players in the game.

That was just one of many stops in yet another outstanding game by Pickard, his 11th in a season that’s seen him recalled three separate times from the Lake Erie Monsters. Not to take anything away from Marc-Andre Fleury, who was opposite Pickard in what turned out to be an incredible goaltending duel at CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday night, but Pickard was the one putting on a clinic.

In fact, nobody was able to master the maestros of the meshwork during the first 60 minutes of play, forcing bonus hockey before a decision came, and swiftly like any overtime settlement. Nearly halfway through the extra frame, the game was over. Blake Comeau scored to seal the 1-0 Avalanche loss.

Pickard was a blizzard between the pipes—particularly in the third period—stopping 47-of-48 shots on the night, a career high and an Avalanche record for the most ever by an Avs rookie. His effort fell three short of the franchise record for saves by a rookie (50) set by Quebec's Clint Malarchuk on March 20, 1983 at Winnipeg.

Pickard’s 19-save third period was like watching a one-man show, Pickard scrambling, sliding, snapping and diving around the crease while continuously giving his club a chance to win.

“He was our star player, without a doubt,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “A point is a point. There’s a lot of positives in our game, I would say. Tonight, obviously we’re a little disappointed because we were one shot away to win the hockey game despite the fact that we might not have played our best game.”

Regardless of having been a goaltender that could take over a game himself, Roy said he wasn’t happy with the way the rest of the night went, including Colorado’s inability to find a way to beat Fleury and his golden-goalie pads.

“The players know,” said Roy. “They know they have to generate more offense, and we have to be better around their net.”

More offense starts with more secure puck possession, according to Roy.

“Tonight, I thought we had too many turnovers and giveaways, especially in the second period. I think they had a lot of chances, but a lot of their chances were generated by our turnovers and giveaways,” Roy said. “Just need to learn to play those games, and be better in our decision making, especially at both blue lines. Breaking out is very important… And same thing in our entry, we’re forcing plays that aren’t there.”

Colorado’s forwards have been held off the scoresheet for two straight games now. In fact, the only player to score in the last 120 minutes has been defenseman Erik Johnson, who was certainly trying to tally again Thursday.

“I’m going to jump up as much as I can. We have the green light from the staff, and forwards look for us,” Johnson said. “It makes a big difference when we can chip in offensively and add that element of our game. You’ve got to be smart about it. You’ve got to manage your game, know what time on the clock it is, but if we have an opportunity, we’re going.”

Colorado returns to action Saturday, playing the Buffalo Sabres in the first of back-to-back, weekend games.

Stuart Hits 1,000 Games

Avalanche rear guard Brad Stuart reached a personal milestone when he took the ice on Thursday night. The 1-0 contest was the 1,000th of his 15-year NHL career, something that came both with ease and a little blood, sweat and tears.

“It’s a nice accomplishment, something that you don’t really think about when you come into the league,” Stuart said on Wednesday. “You’re just trying to stay in the league and establish yourself, and then as I got closer and closer I realized how it’s a pretty good milestone for someone to play that many games. It’s a lot games, but I’ve had a lot of fun and made a lot of good memories.

“It’s definitely something I think I can be proud of.”

Having been out of the lineup since Nov. 6 with a hamstring injury, Stuart played heavy minutes for the Avs. His 20:34 ranked third for defenders, and he finished with four shots, one hit and two blocked shots.

When asked about what advice he might give to players seeking a career as long and successful as his, Stuart offered a glimpse at a decision that shaped his entire NHL existence.

“There’s going to come a point in your career where you have to decide what kind of player you want to be. You can be the player that you really want to be and think you can be, or you can be the player that you need to be,” said Stuart. “I think I figured out that the player I needed to be to have a lasting career was a little bit different than what I was in junior. I was a little more offensive.

“I just decided that I had to play a physical defensive game and really fasten myself to that, and I think that’s why I’ve been able to keep myself in the league longer than some guys. You’ve got to figure out what you’re good at and do it as good as you can everyday. Always try to improve, but don’t try to be a player that you’re not because a lot of the time that doesn’t work out for you.”

Stuart has 77 goals, 245 assists, 557 penalty minutes and is plus-10 through 1,000 games. He’s also won the Stanley Cup once, with the Detroit Red Wings.

He will be honored at Pepsi Center on Dec. 23 before Colorado’s game against the St. Louis Blues.

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