It was one of those things that is expected from a team captain. When the game is on the line, will the player with the 'C' stitched to his chest step up on the ice and show leadership?
That is what Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog did on Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, though not necessarily in a conventional manner.
With the game tied 1-1 at 11:16 of the second period and moments after a faceoff in the Avs' zone, Landeskog dropped the gloves and fought Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd in an attempt to fire up his teammates. Landeskog threw left hooks, then rights hooks and then more left hooks before Ladd and he fell to the ice. The Pepsi Center crowd erupted in cheer, appreciating the scrap and who—the captain—was involved.
It was Landeskog's third fighting major of his NHL career, and it was one of the moments that helped lead to an Avalanche comeback and a 4-3 shootout victory over the Jets.
"Very proud of our captain, the fight that he had," said Colorado head coach Patrick Roy after the game. "I'm not saying that we're for fighting, but I thought it showed a lot of character. You can't lose that game when your captain does that. You have to find a way to win, and that is what I said to our guys after the second period. Let's respond."
Matt Duchene said it was a fight that was a week in the making, going back to when the Avs played at the Jets last Friday.
"He wanted him last game and it didn't happen," Duchene said of Landeskog's bout. "This game he went, and you could tell that he wanted him bad and get some momentum for us. He did a heck of a job stepping up there."
The Avs seemed to have an extra jump in their step after the fight, but it was the Jets that found their way on the scoreboard first. Paul Postsma scored on a power play with 5:20 remaining in the second and Mark Scheifele rifled a nice shot past Colorado goalie Calvin Pickard at 4:32 of the third period to give the Jets a 3-1 lead.
Despite not having the immediate impact it probably intended, the fight was the spark that turned into a blaze midway through the third period. The Avs kept at it and believed they would comeback, and they did as Jarome Iginla and Ryan O'Reilly each tallied to force extra time.
"It didn't put us down, that third goal," Duchene said of Scheifele's strike. "We still believed. We thought we played a good hockey game, and we didn't allow some of the bad breaks to deflate us and kept going at the end."
The Avs captain did more than just fight, as he led with his play as well. He did his best to create chances by firing a game-high seven shots on Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec, one of which resulted in the tying goal. Landeskog's shot from the right side went off the Winnipeg goalie's pads and right to the stick of O'Reilly, who was driving to the front of the net and got an easy swipe-in score to tie the game with 2:42 left.
Landeskog wasn't alone in the leadership category for the Avalanche, either.
"Gabe steps up, has a great fight with Ladd and then sets up the tying goal. Iggy great shot. Tangs two assists. Picks huge in net. Little things like that," said Duchene, who had a goal, an assist and a shootout tally himself. "Jan Hejda made an outstanding pass to me on both of our line's goals, the one backdoor and the one on the half wall that not many people might have seen. We had so many guys step up tonight, it was a big team win."
In overtime, Pickard took over the game as he made four key saves to force a shootout. Then in the tiebreaker, the Avs goaltender stopped both of the Jets' shots while watching teammates Nathan MacKinnon and Duchene score to seal the victory.
"What I like was that we didn't give up," Roy said. "We were resilient. We competed, and it was a nice comeback."
ANOTHER STRONG GAME FROM PICKARD
Calvin Pickard continued to look solid in net as he made 30 saves and earned the fourth NHL victory of his young career.
His best saves might have come in overtime as he stopped consecutive shots on a Winnipeg breakaway, the original from Andrew Ladd and the rebound attempt from the trailing Bryan Little.
"He was phenomenal," Roy said. "On that breakaway, he made a great save. Even on the rebound, a better save. I'm happy for him. He's competing hard, and he deserves to be where he is. We're certainly proud of him."
Pickard is now 4-3-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in his last seven games.
Expect him to be in net on Saturday when the Avs close out the homestand against the Blues.
McGINN HAS SUCCESSFUL SURGERY
Avalanche forward Jamie McGinn had successful back surgery on Wednesday, and it will be determined in the near future whether he'll miss the remainder of the season.
McGinn will be evaluated over the next three to six weeks before a decision will be made on if he will be rehabbing in an attempt to comeback before the 2014-15 campaign is over or for next season.
"For the next six weeks he won't do much," Roy said after morning skate. "I wouldn't be surprised if his season is over, but we'll see how it goes. We'll know more in the next three or four weeks, and see how his back reacts. We're certainly not going to push him."
Missing all of training camp and the preseason with a back injury, McGinn was healthy enough to make Colorado's opening-night roster and play in the team's first 19 games before the back ailment was too much for him to play effectively.
McGinn has four goals and two assists this season. He last played Nov. 15 at New Jersey.