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Avs Pick Up Big Win At Home

It was a long time coming for Colorado

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding /

The Colorado Avalanche is undefeated at home in 2017.

Sure that's a little spin, but there was such a sense of relief throughout the dressing room after skating away with a 2-1 overtime victory versus the New York Islanders that focusing on the positives is a nice change of pace in Denver.

Exultation abounded, a weight was lifted, the curse was broken, the streak ended and the Avs accomplished it through hard work.

"There was a lot of relief, for sure," netminder Calvin Pickard said of the flood of emotions following Nathan MacKinnon's game-winning goal. "It's been tough sledding at home for us. We've had a tough go here, and to get that win and bust the streak, [there's] much relief, for sure."

"It was a long time coming. It's been tough at home. It's been tough in general, obviously," MacKinnon said. "Wins haven't been easy to get, and obviously we have a lot of work to do still, but it definitely feels good to win heading into this break."

What break might you ask?

The Avalanche is taking some positive mojo into a five-day, NHL-mandated bye week, and the win and the rest are both much needed after ending a 10-game, home-ice losing skid on Friday.

Video: Nathan MacKinnon on the Avs' win vs. NYI

"We just wanted to end the streak, obviously. It's a question we don't want to keep having to answer," MacKinnon said. "We're glad this is something positive. It feels like it's a rarity with only 13 wins this season. It is a rarity. We wanted to get that extra point, and we're happy we did." 

"It's just nice to win in front of our fans. They've been waiting for it for a long time, and we've been close a few times and not so close on other nights. We want our team to play as best they can every night, and I thought we did that tonight for the most part," head coach Jared Bednar said. "I thought our first period was good. We were skating and moving the puck quickly. We were getting in and out of our zone. Second period, I kind of thought again that we got away from it a little bit. A few O-zone blue line turnovers, trying to make things happen on the rush, penalties hurt us again, and then we came back and had a pretty good third period."

The Avalanche opened the scoring for the third-straight game at Pepsi Center, with captain Gabriel Landeskog firing a blast through traffic and into twine for a 1-0 lead in the first period.

In the second, the Islanders tied the game to make things interesting, ultimately forcing overtime. That's when the relentless Colorado onslaught pushed and poked and prodded and pushed some more until MacKinnon was able to pot the second overtime-winning goal of his career.

"We played well. I thought we had a little bit of a letdown in the second. They had a good period, but overall we played solid," MacKinnon said. "We knew they were coming off their break, so we wanted to be good, and we were really good in the first period. So we're excited about the win. 

"Obviously, it feels good to whack one in."

 Video: Bednar on the Avs win vs. N.Y. Islanders

"We had a great start. First period, we had more chances than they did. They looked a little sluggish, and we took advantage of it, got that first goal," Pickard said, recapping the highlights of the match. "They had a bit of a push in the second. We took a couple penalties and they scored on the 5-on-3 there. It was a good shot. It was nice to get that game to overtime, a very exciting overtime, and we ended up getting the two points."

 The game certainly didn't lack excitement. There was a penalty shot for newcomer Matt Nieto, the incredible back-and-forth of the bonus frame, which saw Pickard make a heads-up play to spring Rene Bourque for a breakaway bid, and finally an Islanders penalty which gave the Avs the man advantage and resulted in the game-winning play. 

"That was a good overtime," said Bednar. "Just down and back, down and back. Pick makes a save on the one and throws it up for another breakaway. I thought Pick was really good tonight, probably played his best game in quite some time and earned that win certainly for us here tonight."

Where did the inspiration to make the play come from?

"We always talk about it when we practice it in practice," Pickard revealed. "The refs give you a second to play it, and I had it right in my glove. I didn't have much pressure around me, so I thought I'd throw it up to Bourqie. He was behind their defensemen, and he kind of read it as well. We were both on the same page at the same time, which was nice, and it ended up just dying perfectly for him."

Video: Calvin Pickard makes 35 saves in OT win

In the end, it took hard work and determination from the Avalanche to not only get a win at home but to also head into the bye week on a positive note. The team could have coasted, hoping to cast off the rags of the last few weeks away from the rink, but instead the players put their heads down and battled for a victory.

Now they can heal, mentally and physically.

"Our guys have to use this break No. 1 to get rested physically, and then use it for a little bit of conditioning, I think. Guys can do a little bit off the ice while they're off doing whatever they're doing for the break," Bednar said, suggesting mental rest is equally paramount. "But mentally, it's the most important thing. Our play or our record as of late, it's a strain on everyone. It's stressful. You got to find a way to get away from it a little bit, and there's no better way to do that then get a couple days away from the rink with family and friends or go on vacation or whatever they're doing for their time off. To be able to do that after a win and to get a little confidence back hopefully can pay dividends for us coming out of the break."

Colorado will look to do just that when it hits the ice again on Wednesday for practice ahead of a Jan. 12 meeting with the Anaheim Ducks on Mental Health Night.



Video: Matt Nieto after first game with the Avalanche

Matt Nieto was looking to make a good first impression with his new team after being acquired off waivers on Thursday.

The former San Jose Shark went from an uncertain future to playing alongside a legendary forward in Jarome Iginla. After that, all he could do was work. 

"I thought I brought pretty good energy, and I think I got rewarded for it," he said after Colorado's 2-1 win in overtime. "I knew I'd make a couple mistakes out there just adjusting to systems and whatnot, but for the most part [it was] a smooth transition, and it's definitely something to build off of." 

Head coach Jared Bednar was impressed with the latest addition to the team and used him in all game situations to get a feel for his strengths. 

"I thought he was great. First period, I thought he was exceptional. [He was] skating, making plays. He's got his head up all the time. We gave him the Cliff Notes version of the structure. There's a lot of similarities, I think, between the way we play and San Jose, especially on the penalty kill. I thought he was really good there," Bednar said. "I just thought for the most part, he did everything right, and he made some plays, both on the offensive side of the puck and the defensive side. I like his speed and his energy, it just helps push the pace of that line or whatever line he's playing on and of our team. It's contagious. When you see a guy playing like that, other guys want to follow suit."

Nieto's interminable skating and enthusiasm earned him a penalty shot--the first of his career--in the opening stanza. Although he was denied, it was just another momentum building moment for the club.

"Those are the ones you want to get to put a team in a bad position on the other end," the 24-year-old forward said of the play. "I came down, I thought I froze him and I thought I had that glove side. I put it right in his glove, so he really didn't have to do much work. I think if I put it where I wanted to, I had him frozen."

Regardless, Nieto seems happy with his new squad thus far.

"It's obviously a good feeling, getting a win heading into a break here," said Nieto. "I think all the guys will enjoy the break a little more after that, and we'll come back after and get back to work."

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