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Grigorenko, Iginla Drive Comeback Bids

Avalanche falls short in shootout

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Colorado Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar was looking to spark some offense when he put forward Mikhail Grigorenko back on a line with Matt Duchene and Carl Soderberg, and he got it in the second period of Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

"I thought that was his best game that I've seen since exhibition," Bednar said after the contest. "He was skating and hanging onto the puck and going to the net and just looked [like] a determined player tonight for me. That's what we need from him every night. I love that response from him."

With the Avs trailing by one goal, Grigorenko displayed exceptional hand-eye coordination when he batted a flipping puck out of the air and over goaltender Jacob Markstrom to tie the match. After spending the last game as a healthy scratch, Grigorenko was excited to get back in the lineup and contribute almost immediately.

Video: Bednar on shootout loss to Canucks

"It felt good to score a goal. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it done, but I think there's some positives that we can take out of this game," the 22-year-old forward said.

After going goalless in his first 15 contests, Grigorenko now has two goals in his last four games played.

"I was just in the moment. The puck was bouncing around and everyone was just whacking it," he said of Saturday's athletic marker. "I was just the lucky one to put it in."

Secondary scoring was contagious for the Avs, as Jarome Iginla was the next to tie the match for Colorado. Again trailing by one, this time in the final frame, Iginla fired a shot through a cluster of bodies in front of the net and the puck found twine.

"I thought as a group, we had some good chances all the way around," Iginla said. "The one I got in the third, we won a good faceoff. We had a lot of traffic at the net. I guess it went off their guy and in, and we got a good bounce there. Lately, we've been getting a lot more traffic and it feels like ones are just close."

Video: Jarome Iginla reflects on the shootout loss

The marker broke an 11-game goalless drought for the 20-year NHL veteran, who said he thought his team was going to come out with a victory.

"In the third, I thought we had some ones that just were deflecting wide, and I thought we were going to find a way to get it," admitted Iginla. "Then in OT, I thought we controlled it. I thought it was fun to watch [Nathan MacKinnon], Grigo hit the post. Some great chances, but unfortunately they hung on and they got an important win."

Netminder Calvin Pickard wasn't shy in praising both forwards for their work to force two separate comebacks, earning the Avalanche an important point in the standings.

"Those are great goals. Grigo was flying tonight. He played really well," Pickard said. "It's good to see him use his skill on that, batting the puck out of the air, and Iggy has been playing good lately, for sure. He's getting a lot of chances, and it's nice to see him get rewarded. He was great again."

Video: Postgame interview with Mikhail Grigorenko

Pickard turned aside 29 shots, including three in overtime, before succumbing to Vancouver in the skills competition.

"It's obviously tough to lose in a shootout. You never want to lose, but they want to win just as much as we do," he said. "Their goalie was playing really well. He made some big stops in overtime and the shootout. It was big for them."

"I liked our effort tonight; we were skating and working. Some of our details weren't perfect. We made some mistakes, and Pick came up big for us," Bednar said, summarizing the game from his perspective. "We fight back in it twice. We give up an early power-play goal. We have to fight back a little bit, and then we give up an early goal in the third, but we responded much better in the third than we did the other night. So that's a positive, and then when we needed a save, like I said, Pick was there.

"We get to overtime, and I liked our play in overtime. We were good, creating some chances. Good defensively on that part of it, and it gets to a shootout and it's a coin toss for me at that point. We need to score a goal if we're going to win in the shootout."

Despite the loss, the team appears to be moving in the right direction. There's no consolation in losing, regardless of the overtime loser point, but there are certainly some things the Avs can take with them into the next one.

"There's positives. It doesn't feel good [losing], and you can see here, no one is thinking that was good enough. It's at home. We want to win that game," Iginla said. "Saying that, we did a lot of things that we should keep doing. Our zone play as a group has been getting better. We've been starting to hem teams in a little bit more and stuff. So there are positives. Obviously, [there are] areas to improve still, but it was a good atmosphere in there tonight.

"It would have been nice to get that shootout win or OT win. The crowd would have went crazy, I think, if MacK or Grigo scored there, but it wasn't the case. We'll get back to work and build on some of those positives from tonight."

 

MARTIN RECALLED

Twenty-one-year-old netminder Spencer Martin was recalled from the San Antonio Rampage on Friday to serve as the backup to starting keeper Calvin Pickard for Saturday night's contest against the Canucks.

"It's obviously pretty exciting. It's an awesome opportunity to show the progress I've made down in San Antonio and also learn from everybody here," Martin said following his first NHL morning skate.

The Oakville, Ontario, native said he found out about his first call up after an on-ice session in Texas.

Video: Martin called up to NHL for first time

"I just got called in after practice in San Antonio, and they told me I was going up," he said. "I was like 'I'm going up?' It just kind of caught me off guard because I've never been called up before, but it's pretty exciting. My family is excited to watch on TV, and it's fun."

Martin's family had the added benefit of the tilt being a nationally televised meeting with the Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.

"That's pretty special too," Colorado's prospect said. "It's a dream come true."

Martin has gone 8-5-0 and posted a .924 save percentage with the Avalanche's AHL affiliate, serving as the top goalie while Jeremy Smith has been out with an injury. Martin's 731:35 of game action is ranked first among rookie tenders and his 2.21 goals-against average puts him fifth among the freshman. 

With Semyon Varlamov nursing a minor upper-body injury, Martin is in town to provide support to the club while needed.

"Obviously, we're hoping we're going to get healthy here soon and that Varly will be back. We're not expecting that to be a long delay," head coach Jared Bednar said. "He's just going through something upper body right now. So we're going to keep him off the ice again today, and hopefully get him back into practice here in the next couple days."

 

LANDESKOG UPDATE

Although captain Gabriel Landeskog had skated for three straight days, his lingering lower-body injury prevented him for making it four in a row on Saturday.

"Didn't skate today. Said he's a little sore today, so he just did some treatment. Off-ice stuff today," Jared Bednar said of Landeskog's status before the game. "I don't know if it's a setback, but we're just going to take it day-by-day until he's ready to go, right? Obviously, he skated the last two days. Joined the team for part of practice yesterday, and today he's feeling it a little bit. So we won't know more until he shows up tomorrow.

"Then [we'll] see how he feels, see if he's good to skate again tomorrow."

Landeskog has been out of the lineup since finishing the third period of Colorado's 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 15. 

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