NASHVILLE, Tenn.--The Colorado Avalanche has had a next man up mentality all season, and goaltender Andrew Hammond was the embodiment of that attitude Friday night.
With Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier both out with injuries, Hammond made his second career start for the Avalanche and stopped 44 of the 45 shots he faced, setting a new career high (regular and postseason combined).
Hammond led Colorado to a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Game 5 of the clubs' first-round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Surrey, British Columbia, native is the first Colorado goaltender to post a performance of 40 or more saves in a playoff game since Varlamov made 45 stops in Game 3 of the Avs' first-round series against the Minnesota Wild almost four years ago to the day on April 21, 2014.
"I was seeing [the puck] pretty well tonight, and for the most part I thought guys did a really good job letting me see pucks through lanes and boxing out," said Hammond. "And when it wasn't, you know you just got back to your roots. I have said it before, I think I am more of a battler as a goalie than necessarily technically perfect, but you will take it however it comes."
Video: Andrew Hammond after his 44-save performance
He was especially strong in the third period when Nashville sent 19 pucks at the Colorado net.
"He comes in, he is an experienced guy. I loved his demeanor the last couple days when he knew he was going to take over," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said of Hammond. "I gained some confidence in him just the way he handled the last couple days, I know our guys did as well and everyone is hoping for the best.
"Good for him, I mean he comes in here and the shots were tight and the chances were tight after two periods, but when they opened it up in the third period there--they had 20-plus shots and a bunch of real good looks--he was strong. The only one they got was off the rebound that hit him in the shin pad, so good for him. I am happy for him. I am proud of him, and he has waited a long time this year for this opportunity and he is making the most of it."
Hammond was acquired by the Avalanche on Nov. 5 in a three-team trade involving Colorado, Nashville and the Ottawa Senators. He served as either Varlamov or Bernier's backup for much of the regular season but only made it into the crease for one game for the Avs. He made his Avalanche debut against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 28 and stopped 31 shots in a 2-1 loss.
The game was scoreless through the first 50 minutes, and the Predators struck first after the puck bounced off Nashville's Nick Bonino's skate and just found room inside the right post.
However, the Avs kept pushing and scored twice in the last five minutes of the game to earn their second victory of the best-of-seven series.
"[Hammond was] just so calm and steady all night long, and the one they do get in at the end, it's a tough bounce and a good rebound shot and it goes in off their skate," Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "But even after that, he is so calm and just keeps working, keeps playing. With a 2-1 lead there with a minute and a half left, they found some scoring chances and he was just so solid. It's fun to see."
Video: Gabriel Landeskog after the Avs' Game 5 win
Landeskog got Colorado on the board when he buried a Nathan MacKinnon pass in front, and Sven Andrighetto gave the Avs the lead with his first career postseason goal less than three minutes later.
Nashville pulled its goalie for the extra attacker, but Hammond remained sharp in the closing seconds of the game to seal his first playoff win.
For Colorado, the season was on the line as the team went into Game 5 behind 3-1 in the series, but the extended the campaign for another outing.
"I mean I said it yesterday, you want to play meaningful hockey and when the games mean more, I think I try to take my game to another level and obviously I was able to do that tonight," Hammond said after the matchup. "The guys kept battling, didn't waver even when we get down 1-0 late. To win it in regulation, it just speaks to the character we have here and the no quit. That's the same approach I expect for Game 6 now, keep grinding away.
"It was obviously a lot of fun and we are excited to have another game. We didn't want this to be the last one of the season, and I think to a man we all did whatever we could to make sure that wasn't the case."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar on the Game 5 win
GAME 6 AT PEPSI CENTER
Colorado and Nashville will head to the Mile High City for Game 6 at Pepsi Center on Sunday at 5 p.m. MT.
"We got a series again going home, and it's going to be exciting," said Landeskog. "It's what we talked about before tonight, just to win one. We don't have to win three in one night, we just got to win one, bring it back to Denver and we will take it from there."
The season will once again be on the line, but the Avalanche appears to believe that it can once again extend the series.
"We know who we are facing, we know they are a good team and you got to play your best hockey to beat them," said Bednar. "Going home, I think the advantage with our guys is we are real confident in what we are doing at home and have been all year. So we are looking forward to getting back and playing in front of our fans.
"I think that's a big thing, we started well at home and we have continued to play well at home, even in the playoffs. I am glad our guys get another opportunity to play in our building in front of our fans, it will be fun."
Rookie defenseman Samuel Girard made his return to the lineup after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury.
Girard started the game on a pairing with Patrik Nemeth and played 22:21 and had five shot attempts and two blocked shots.
"[Girard] was good, he was good skating. I liked him a lot again tonight," said Bednar. "I thought Nemeth had a really good night too on the backend, moved the puck well, saw the open outlet. Simple but he was getting us in and out of our zone too, and he had a couple huge blocks to prevent scoring chances as well."