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Bernier Earns Win Against Winnipeg

The goaltender entered the game during the second period

by Callie Parmele / ColoradoAvalanche.com

A backup goaltender requires mental discipline and the ability to be ready to go at the drop of a puck.

Jonathan Bernier started the Colorado Avalanche's contest against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday sitting on the bench, watching his teammates battle the leaders of the Central Division but was unexpectedly called upon to enter into the game midway through.

Bernier found himself between the pipes with 5:45 remaining in the second period to replace Semyon Varlamov, who had left with a lower-body injury.

"I think I was joking at that time with guys on the bench, but that's part of the job. You got to make sure that you are ready," said Bernier. "That was a big game for us in the standings and against a division team. So, I thought we played another solid game, and we found a way to win tonight."

Video: Jonathan Berner discusses the win vs. Jets

Varlamov had stopped all 21 shots he had faced, and at the time, Colorado had just been penalized with a bench minor for too many men on the ice. So, Bernier was forced to start his night on the penalty kill.

"You got to give huge props to Jonathan Bernier for coming in cold in the second," said Erik Johnson. "I mean, that's tough to do. You don't see that too often and the way he played, he had to come in and kill a two-minute power play right after that. He probably deserved a star of that game for that performance alone. Good to get the win for him, especially with the circumstance of him coming in."

The Avalanche earned the 3-2 win with 10 seconds remaining in overtime when Johnson beat Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck on a breakaway.

Video: WPG@COL: Johnson scores on breakaway in overtime

The overtime tally was Johnson's third game-winning marker of the season, matching his career high for game-winners in a single campaign. He is now tied for third among league defensemen in game-winning goals.

"I mean, he is one of the better goalies in the league. I was just trying to get a little elevation on it and put it blocker," Johnson said of Hellebuyck. "We have a scouting sheet before the game that says where most of his goals go in, the percentage. High blocker is one of those places, and I think I hit his pad--it went north and up into the top of the net. It felt good to get the two points under the circumstances of how they tied it."

Winnipeg knotted the game at 2-2 in the last minute of play when the puck took a strange bounce off of the end boards, and Jets forward Blake Wheeler buried the rebound.

"[Bernier] makes a save on the funny bounce off the boards, gets a save and then they bang in the rebound," said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. "I thought he did a really nice job kind of keeping control of the game for us, especially when they made their push in the third period."

The Jets outshot the Avs 45-26 in the contest, and Bernier saw 24 of Winnipeg's shots--seven of those coming late in the second period.

"Sometimes you expect [to see a lot of shots quickly] because they know I am cold," said Bernier. "You are going to try to get one quick, but our team did a tremendous job tonight and we battled hard and we scored the goal."

The game was similar to the first matchup between the two teams this season, which also ended with a 3-2 Avalanche win in an extra frame.

"We answered back and won in overtime, so I think our guys stuck with it," said Bednar. "It wasn't our fanciest game, or best game of the year, but we did a good job. We had a lot of guys playing hard and a goaltending change, both goalies played well."

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after the OT win vs. the Jets

The win against the Central Division opponent improved the Avalanche to 3-1-0 through its first four games of its season-long, six-game homestand.

"I would say this is how we should be playing, and we are at home so that helps," said Bednar. "We have had rest. We have been relatively healthy, and our guys are buying into it. I think what it says about our team is that we are maturing.

"We understand the importance of the homestretch we have been on and, like we talked about, we have to make sure that we take advantage of that because there is going to come a time where we are going to have to go on the road and do the same thing. I would say it's been solid performances and well played hockey by our team for the most part."

Colorado wraps up its current stay at Pepsi Center against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

TOP LINE SUCCESS

Mikko Rantanen had a goal and two assists and Nathan MacKinnon also had two points (one goal, one assist) in the game to continue producing for the Avalanche.

MacKinnon is centering the Avs' first line with Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen on the wings. The trio has combined for 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) through Colorado's first four games of its current homestand.

MacKinnon's multi-point effort was his 15th game finding the scoresheet more than once this season, matching his career high for mutli-point outings in a single campaign (2013-14). He is fifth in the league in scoring with 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists), and 36 of his points have come on home ice.

It was Rantanen's third three-point game this season and fourth of his career. He and MacKinnon have mostly been on the same line since the 2016-17 campaign.

"I think we are both playing better and that helps obviously," said MacKinnon. "I say it all the time, I think last year we had a ton of chances and I really liked playing with him. Last year I thought we had really good chemistry, we just didn't get the numbers. This year is a different story, but we are only halfway through this year."

Video: Nathan MacKinnon on the Avs' OT win

CAN'T KILL THEM ALL

Colorado went 3-for-4 on the penalty kill, ending its streak at 36 consecutive kills. The team didn't allow a power-play goal in its previous 11 contests, the longest stretch in Avalanche history.

The club's 36 straight killed penalties is the second longest in Avalanche history, behind 43 kills in a row in October 1996.

The Avs have gone 62-for-67 on the penalty kill at home this season and are first in the league in the category on familiar ice, successfully ending the 5-on-4 situations 92.5 percent of the time.   

GREER RETURNS TO AVS

Colorado recalled A.J. Greer from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League on Monday ahead of the Avs game versus the Jets, and he was on a top-six line with Alexander Kerfoot and Nail Yakupov for the contest.

"I think he gives us a little physical presence, a little sand paper up there, but he has the skill to be able to make plays and support those guys," said Bednar. "He is a guy who goes to the net hard in the American League, he has done it here for short sprints. Big, physical body so we look for him to be a positive contributor on that line."

Greer had two shots on goal and two hits in 6:13 of ice time in the contest.

The rookie has now played in seven NHL games this campaign and has recorded one assist and 18 penalty minutes.

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