For the 30th time this season, the Colorado Avalanche scored the first goal of the game, and for the 23rd time this year—and the 13th on the road—the club skated away to a victory.
Carl Soderberg scored first, burying a rebound from the doorstep of the crease; Jarome Iginla tallied second, firing a laser past Connor Hellebuyck and into the top of the net; and goaltender Semyon Varlamov turned aside 36 shots to power the Avs to a big 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
“It was a good win. They’re really good in here,” alternate captain and resident veteran Jarome Iginla said. “They always come out strong in the first period, and they did that again tonight. But we weathered it. Varly was great in there. It kind of had a little playoff feel to the game. Pretty tight both ways, but we were able to get up a couple and hold onto it in the third.”
Iginla’s power-play marker—his team-leading seventh of the season—came with 18 seconds remaining in the middle stanza and held up as the eventual game-winner.
“Off the draw, we didn’t have much time left. I think 30-some seconds left in the period,” he said of the play. “Carl won a great battle there. Then we kind of moved, it went back to Tyson [Barrie], over to [Alex Tanguay]. Tangs did a nice job of giving Carl a look-away pass and gave him some time. Carl’s great on that down-low pass. When I saw it come through, I was trying to get it off as quick as I could and just get it on net and high. Fortunately, it found a good spot.”
The tally moved Iginla into sole possession of 18th place on the NHL’s all-time goals list and into a tie with Mats Sundin (96) for 9th place in game-winning markers. It also capped off a period of domination for the visiting squad.
“He’s a good shooter. Obviously, around the net he’s very dangerous,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “It was a super play by Carl. It was a nice pass, and he made a great shot. We needed that shot. I thought their goalie did a good job to get there, and he put it over the pad.”
“That’s huge. I think we’ve gone a few games without one,” Barrie said of the man-advantage goal. “We knew it was time for us to step up. The first power play of the game wasn’t very good. We couldn’t get it set up, so that was a big one.”
Varlamov did the rest for Colorado, holding the game scoreless until there was merely 42 seconds left in the game. It was the 27-year-old netminder’s first start in the last two matches after Calvin Pickard had backstopped the club to a win over the New Jersey Devils and a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“He’s been really good for us. We’ve been using him a lot,” Roy said of the No. 1 keeper. “We gave him a couple games to rest. Pick played well during that time, and tonight Varly was really sharp. I have to admit he made some good saves toward the end, but I thought we did a good job in front of him as well.”
With the victory, the Avalanche jumped the idle Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks to regain the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. On top of that, the club gained precious ground on the Minnesota Wild, which has lost four straight games and now sits just three points ahead of Colorado.
“It is important because we’re not doing so well against teams from the East, for some reason. But four-point games have been good for us so far this year,” said Roy. “Now, we need to continue. It was a hard-fought game. I thought both teams played well, but I thought we were really strong for at least a good 50 minutes. They made a push toward the end and certainly had a lot of shots toward the end, but I thought our guys responded well to that.”
A solid effort in all areas of the ice helped the Avs move to 10-3-1 against Central Division squads, perhaps the most important area for gains in the tight race for a postseason berth.
“I think the entire team played really well tonight,” Roy said. “It was an important game for us. It was important to win that hockey game, and our guys played a strong game.”
Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond skated in his 100th career NHL game on Monday night. He finished the contest with two blocked shots in 14:30 of ice time.
|Zach Redmond |
Paired for the third consecutive game with rookie rear guard Chris Bigras, Redmond said he’s drawn on his experience a bit to help Bigras transition into the top tier of the sport.
“I think there’s definitely a few things right off the hop you can let him know about just to make him comfortable,” Redmond said of playing mentor. “Mainly just about my experience in my first few games and kind of passing that along, but he’s a smart kid. I got to see him play a little bit in San Antonio. He’s definitely capable. He’s a great player.”
Redmond was a teammate of Bigras’ for 11 games with the Rampage this season, prior to being recalled by Colorado on Nov. 12. His seven points (three goals, four assists) were tied for first among Rampage defensemen prior to his departure.
Drafted in the seventh round (184th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, Redmond made his league debut with the Jets on Jan. 31, 2013, in a contest at the Florida Panthers. He scored his first two points (both assists) two games later in a home rematch against the Panthers on Feb. 5.
Redmond scored his first and only goal of that season the following match on Feb. 7.
He had 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 59 games with the Avs last season. He has four points (one goal, three assists) in 23 contests with the club this year.