Veteran forward Jarome Iginla even said as much after Colorado’s morning skate at the Saddledome.
“It’s the same thing you hear all the time: guys have to step up,” Iginla said.
That’s exactly what the Avs got in a nice 4-3 comeback victory on the road.
Defensemen Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie tallied, center Carl Soderberg tied the contest at 3-3 nearly halfway through the final frame and forward Mikkel Boedker registered the lone marker in the shootout to seal the Avalanche’s victory.
Head coach Patrick Roy had said that depth would be important for his club during this trip, and the fact that guys like Soderberg and Boedker came through when the game was on the line was huge.
“It was tough to lose these guys, but now it’s nice to have Landy back for the game against Edmonton. But in the course of a season, everybody’s affected by injuries and it’s part of the game. This is where depth needs to play an important role, and I thought that’s what our guys did,” Roy said after the match. “[Boedker] scored a big goal for us in the shootout. I thought he had a strong game tonight.
“I think that line had some good moments. So did [Mikhail] Grigorenko and [John] Mitchell and [Jarome] Iginla.”
Scoring big goals is the kind of thing that Boedker was brought in to do for the Avalanche.
“He’s done a terrific job,” blueliner Erik Johnson said. “I think we knew he was going to help our power play. I think we knew he was going to help our team speed. We were a fast team as it was, but he’s really fit in well. He’s a great team guy. We all really like him, and it’s good to see how he’s fit in. He’s played really, really well for us, so it’s been a great addition.”
The elation of Boedker’s skilled and timely tally capped off a major coup for the Avs, who allowed two shorthanded markers in the middle stanza to fall to a 3-1 deficit for a time.
“That power play wasn’t the best of the year, I don’t think, but we battled back,” the Danish forward said. “It was a huge two points for us. I think [Semyon Varlamov] stood very tall in net. We had a few opportunities, and Carl was able to put it in to tie it up. Then it goes all the way to the shootout. Good two points for us.”
The key for Colorado, when the game turned against the club, was sticking with the process and knowing that there was plenty of time left to recover.
“Obviously, I think we could have felt sorry for ourselves after the second,” said Johnson. “Kind of uncharacteristic goals for us there with the two shorthanded, but we just came in here after the second and said that we can feel sorry for ourselves or go out and play hard and have a great period. And we played really well and tied it up late there and got it to the shootout. Just a huge win to put a little separation between [us and the Minnesota Wild].”
“I think you stay with it. It was one bad shift where they got two shorthanded goals, which shouldn’t happen on a power play, but it happens,” Boedker added. “We still felt like we were in the game and we still felt like we were within reach of winning the game. When you stick with it, you have good goaltending and you keep on fighting, I think good things are going to happen.”
Varlamov shut the door after that quick strike, denying everything and anything that came his way so his teammates could work on the comeback. He finished the night with 30 saves, and he turned away three shooters in the skills competition after playing large in overtime.
“I thought we showed a lot of character,” Roy said. “Obviously, our power play was not very good. We gave up two goals on the power play. Yeah, they were skating well on their penalty killing, but there’s no doubt in my mind we should have been a lot better. But we showed some character coming back. We made it a 3-2 game, and then we scored midway in the third period to tie the game. You know, it was not an easy game, but sometimes you have to find ways to win hockey games, and that’s what our guys did.”
“Once we got it to overtime, we said, ’Let’s get two here. Let’s not settle for one,’” Johnson said. “They came with a big push in overtime and had some chances, and fortunately the shootout went our way. Now we focus on Edmonton.”
Johnson scored his 11th goal of the season when he tied the game at 1-1 late in the first period, and his overall play even earned him the rare shot in the shootout.
“It was my third of my career. It’s been about four or five years since I went, and I [didn’t have] really any idea what I was going to do,” the defenseman admitted. “I thought I’d go high glove and just missed a bit there, but Boeds cleaned up the scraps and Varly made some good saves, and we found a way to win.”
Johnson is one marker away from tying his career high (12) set during the 2014-15 campaign. After scoring to make it a 3-2 contest, Barrie now leads Avs D-men in goals (12) and the entire team in assists (34-tied). He is also one tally away from a career best (13) set in the 2013-14 season.
“I think our ‘D’ have been doing good pretty much all year,” Roy said of contributions from the back end. “Tyson has a lot of points. [Francois] Beauchemin has been doing good. Erik Johnson as well. [Nick] Holden. Offensively, I’m feeling that our ‘D’ have been producing pretty well for us.”
WIN COMES WITH A PRICE
The victory at the Saddledome was huge for the Avalanche, but two injuries came with it. Center Nathan MacKinnon (knee) and rear guard Eric Gelinas (elbow) both left the match and didn’t return.
After the game, Roy provided an update on Gelinas’ status.
“He hurt his elbow when he got hit,” said the coach. “He’s going to be out for awhile. The nice thing is [Chris] Bigras played a good game tonight for us. Now, [Andrew] Bodnarchuk and [Zach] Redmond are going to have to find a way to play some good hockey for us.”
Bodnarchuk served as Colorado’s seventh defenseman on Friday night, skating just 2:30 in the win. Redmond was a healthy scratch.
The Avalanche also announced after the game that MacKinnon would be reevaluated in Edmonton. His status will be updated after that.
Team captain Gabriel Landeskog is now eligible to return to action after serving a three-game suspension.
Out since March 7 with a head injury, rookie rear guard Chris Bigras returned to the lineup for the Avs in Friday’s win in Calgary.
“I’m excited to get back into the lineup and help with the playoff push here,” the 21-year-old said before the contest.
Bigras recently admitted that time outside of the game, watching from above or below or on TV, had provided him with yet another learning opportunity during his first year in the NHL, and Wednesday’s 3-1 win in Vancouver was an example.
“You look at the last game and just the relentless pressure that we played with,” Bigras said on Friday morning. “When we’re doing that, we’re hard on the forecheck, we’re a great team. We win hockey games that way.”
Bigras has seen a handful of pairings on the third defensive unit at different points throughout his first 24 games in the league, but he was primarily paired with Eric Gelinas on Friday.
“It’s been good getting to play with several guys, just in different styles to see what fits with my game,” Bigras said. “It’s been just a couple games that I’ve played with Eric, but he’s a great player. He’s got a good shot.”
Bigras has a goal and an assist this year since being recalled on Jan. 13. Prior to that, he was ranked second among San Antonio Rampage defensemen with 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 37 contests.
He finished the night with two shots and one hit in 13:11 of ice time.