The Colorado Avalanche knew it was going to take hard work to best the red-hot Calgary Flames on Thursday night in Alberta. The club leads the Avs in the standings and has been quite successful so far this season during its reign of terror in the Western Conference.
The game turned out to be equal parts goaltending duel—both Semyon Varlamov and Karri Ramo were sturdy between the pipes—back-and-forth excitement and luck, as Calgary skated off with the 4-3 overtime victory.
“We’re trying to find a way to get back in the playoff race and a loss like tonight certainly hurt us a lot,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said following the match. “At times I think we play better than last year, and last year we got 112 points. It’s hard to explain. We’ve lost a lot of games. Tonight was our 14th game we lost by one goal.
“Last year we were just winning those games and the puck was bouncing our way. I thought we were managing our game better. Right now, it seems like we’re losing those games, and it certainly makes a big difference.”
Calgary got on the board first in the second period, moments into a Nate Guenin penalty kill, when Johnny Gaudreau sent an airmail pass toward the Avalanche slot that connected with Dennis Wideman for a elite, tap-in goal as he zoomed towards Varlamov.
The early deficit, as we’ve seen so many times this season, motivated the Avs, and the visiting squad responded with two tallies of its own.
The Avalanche tied it roughly 11 minutes later when Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly found themselves on the right end of a 2-on-1 chance. O’Reilly fed the puck through a Flames defender to Duchene and the latter let it fly into the net behind Ramo.
What’s the key to success on a two-on one?
Said Duchene: “Either an early pass or a good fake. You’ve got to be deceptive one way or another. Factor did a good job there. He looked like he was going to shoot it and then opened up, made room for me and it’s just an open net for me.”
The second period was exactly the kind of game that the Avs wanted.
The club got another tally less than a minute later when Nick Holden—playing forward—had a Zach Redmond pass through traffic in front of the Flames net carom in off his skate. The two-goal period—which included an overturned Daniel Briere tally after video review—really got the Avalanche moving at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“We like our second there. We kept on the pedal and came up with two goals after that disallowed one,” said Duchene between periods. “We liked our first. A lot of the pucks are bouncing out there… didn’t have to much offense going either way.”
The action picked up again in the third period as Calgary scored just over a minute into the stanza. David Glencross fired his shot point-blank through Varlamov to tie the contest at two apiece.
With the game deadlocked and both teams giving up little in the battle of the third period, the Avs needed a hero. That person looked to be former Flames forward Alex Tanguay, who caught a pass from off his skate and then made a beautiful, one-handed deke on Kris Russell to find himself 1-on-1 with Ramo. Tanguay used his patented patience to draw Ramo out of position before burying the biscuit into the yawning net.
It was a familiar move for Avalanche fans and it gave Tanguay his ninth goal of the season. He’s tied for the team lead with Duchene.
The Flames, much like the Avalanche of yesteryear, refused to quit however. That never-say-die effort paid off with 1:17 left on the clock when Widemen got his second goal of the game on a blast through traffic.
“In the third period, giveaways will always hurt you and that’s what caused the second goal,” said Roy. “The third one, I have to give them credit. They put traffic in front of the net and it was a great shot. A wrister from the blue line, it was just at the right place. It was a tough play for our goalie.”
The Flames then iced the match in overtime with Sean Monahan notching the game-winner.
Varlamov made 21 stops—including a huge leg save to start overtime—in his first game back after suffering a groin injury in mid-November.
“We got a point. It’s nice to have one point, but when you’re up with less than two [minutes], expect to have two [points],” Roy said.
The Avs return to action Friday with the second of back-to-back road games in Canada. This time they face the Winnipeg Jets.