Varlamov has been outstanding in his first six games—going 5-1-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage—but Giguere bettered his teammate and friend Monday night with a 34-save shutout performance against the high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
|Jean-Sebastien Giguere |
"You have to be in the zone when you play here," Giguere said. "These guys have a lot of firepower, and I knew it was going to be a difficult game for me. You have to be on your toes and luckily for me I felt really good tonight."
It was Giguere's second shutout in three starts this season and the 38th of his career. He is now tied for 37th in league history in shutouts with Tom Barrasso and Sean Burke.
Giguere was the hot hand coming into the contest as he made 28 saves on Saturday night in Buffalo, including stopping 25 shots in the final two periods. On Monday he began where he left off against the Sabres as he was peppered with shots in the early going and made 11 saves in the first period.
The Avalanche needed the veteran netminder to have a strong first period after the Penguins had four power-play opportunities in the stanza, but Colorado's penalty kill unit with Giguere backstopping was up to the challenge and denied each chance.
While seven of Pittsburgh's 11 shots in the first 20 minutes came with the man advantage, the Penguins also had their fair share of scoring chances during five-on-five play. Their best opportunity maybe came in the final minute as Giguere made a glove save on a close shot by Sidney Crosby to keep the game scoreless going into the first intermission.
Overall, Colorado killed off all seven Pittsburgh power plays in the contest, with Giguere making 12 of his saves while his team was a man down.
After the game, Giguere was quick to credit his defense for allowing him to see the puck and to clear away rebounds while the club was shorthanded.
"If I'm able to make the first save and see it and we take the rebound, that is the easiest way to do it," he said.
The Avalanche put together a strong second period and took the lead on a Gabriel Landeskog goal midway through the stanza, but the Penguins answered with a strong third period and fired 16 shots in the final 20 minutes.
With 7:35 to go, Crosby made a forward pass to an open Chris Kunitz in front of the net, but Giguere was there to make the save on the wrist shot.
"He was playing like he was 25 years old again," Avs center John Mitchell said of his goalie. "He is doing great out there for us. He played awesome again tonight. He makes timely saves again and again, and I couldn't be happier for him."
Crosby entered the game as the league's scoring leader with 17 points, but Giguere and the Avs defense denied all seven shots he took. It was the first game this season that Crosby was held without a point.
The Penguins had several chances with the extra attacker on the ice in the final minute, but as he had done in the 59 minutes prior, Giguere was a brick wall.
"Your goalie needs to be your best player in those situations and Jiggy was our best player," head coach Patrick Roy said of Pittsburgh's final push.
The start to Monday's game was almost completely opposite to Saturday's start in Buffalo. The Sabres had only three shots in the first period, which can make it tough for a goalie to get into a game.
That wasn't the case against the Penguins, and Giguere's solid start helped lay the foundation for the rest of the contest.
"In some ways, if you ask any goalie in the league, it's easier to have a lot of shots," Giguere said. "You are in your zone, you feel good, you feel the puck, you see the puck."
COLE HARBOUR CUP
Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia natives and former No. 1 picks Nathan MacKinnon (2013) of the Avalanche and Sidney Crosby (2005) of the Penguins squared off against one another in an NHL game for the first time on Monday.
MacKinnon's hero growing up—as you could guess—was Crosby, but the Avs rookie said before the game that playing against his hockey idol wouldn't faze him. In fact, the two players train together in the offseason and are friends.
"I think it's going to make it easier that I have gotten to know him," said MacKinnon after morning skate. "I have gotten to work out with him over the summers so I won't be star-gazing as much if I had never met the guy."
Neither had any points in the game with Crosby firing seven shots in 26:40 of ice and MacKinnon having two shots in 10:54.
However, it was MacKinnon's team that picked up the win—and the Cole Harbour Cup we'll say—on this day.
Monday's game in Pittsburgh was a homecoming of sorts for Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin.
|Nate Guenin |
Born roughly 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh in Aliquippa, Penn., Guenin was playing in western Pennsylvania for the first time as an opposing player and the second time ever as an NHL player.
He had played two career games as a member of the Penguins in 2009-10, but one of those games was on the road in Ottawa.
"I have quite a bit family and friends here," Guenin said. "It's neat for me, but its even cooler to see the excitement that they get out of it."
So far this season, Guenin has played in every game for Colorado and has been one of the key contributors on the team's penalty kill.
Guenin had another strong performance in the Pittsburgh game as he had three hits, blocked three shots and played more than seven minutes on the penalty kill.
McLEOD SUSPENDED FIVE GAMES
About one hour before Monday's game, the NHL announced that Avs forward Cody McLeod will be suspended for five games from a boarding penalty during Thursday's contest versus the Red Wings.
The incident occurred against Detroit's Niklas Kronwall at 2:13 of the first period, and McLeod was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
McLeod missed the Avalanche's game on Saturday against Buffalo and was going to be out of the lineup on Monday against the Penguins as well.
The Colorado left wing will miss another three games and is eligible to return on Nov. 2 against Montreal.