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Jackets Zipped

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

Saturday night’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Columbus Blue Jackets was one of those contests that was over just after it began. The Avalanche leapt out to an early lead, taking charge of its playoff destiny in the 4-0 victory at Nationwide Arena in Ohio, and didn’t look back.

Rear guard Tyson Barrie played a major role in Colorado’s dominating win, leaving his mark on three of the four goals on the night.

Barrie assisted on the first tally of the match, dishing the puck to veteran forward Jarome Iginla to set up a blast during a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. Iginla picked up his 21st of the year after he ripped a shot from the point through goaltender Curtis McElhinney and into the net on the short side. The play, which moved Iginla into sole possession of 43rd place on the NHL’s all-time points list, came after some patty-cake like passing behind the home team’s net got Columbus’s penalty killers moving.

Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog got the next one, just 1:27 later, during the ensuing 5-on-4 sequence. The 22-year-old Swede took a pass from Ryan O’Reilly at the corner of the Columbus net and spun around a sprawling McElhinney to tuck the biscuit in the basket for the 2-0 lead. The marker was Landeskog’s 18th of the season, and his seventh career tally against the Blue Jackets. Landeskog now has 10 points (seven goals, three assists) in 11 games versus Columbus.

Barrie started the play with a pass to O’Reilly from the blue line.

A weak spot for Colorado earlier in the season, the Avalanche power-play unit got work done with back-to-back tallies to kick off the shutout effort.

“I think we’re really comfortable out there. We’ve had the same units now for awhile. We’re getting comfortable moving around. We know where guys are going to be,” Barrie said of the recent success on the man advantage. “I think it’s got a good feel to it and we’re getting some goals, and we’re going to look to continue that and make up for some not-so-good power plays earlier in the year.”

Matt Duchene scored 5:58 later on a breakaway bid after he hassled Scott Hartnell until the

forward turned the puck to Duchene with a clear lane to McElhinney. The marker was his 17th of the season.

“I just was trying to hound Hartnell, and [was] just able to read it,” Duchene said of the play. “Iggy was in a good spot, allowed me to kind of pick it off. Fortunately I was able to squeak it in.”

Three goals on eight shots in the first 9:53 of play proved too much for the Blue Jackets to master, and the Avs held onto the early lead for the duration.

“I think it was very important. When you have opportunities like these ones, you have to find a way to score some goals, and that’s exactly what our guys did,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “That was a great shot by Jarome, and it was a great play by Factor and Landy on that second one. It gave us a 2-0 lead. After that, Dutchy scored a nice one on the breakaway.”

“That was the start we wanted. We knew they played last night, and we got the two big power-play goals to start, kind of kicked it off,” said Barrie. “Then Dutchy had a beauty on the breakaway, but I think Varly was outstanding when Columbus started to push back.”

Goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov was fantastic in the win, turning aside 44 shots as he dipped, ducked, dived and dodged around the blue paint to make sure his club took an important two points on the road. The 26-year-old Russian posted his fifth shutout of the season, a new career high. He previously had four during the 2011-12 campaign.

“He made some great saves. He made some look a lot easier than they were in reality, but at the same time I thought our guys did a good job in front of him, clearing the rebounds,” said Roy. “He was solid again, and if we want to have a chance… to go to the postseason, he’s going to have to be our best player. That’s exactly what he did tonight. He was very good.”

With Varlamov locking the door to the net and throwing the key into the stands, the Avalanche had the confidence to hold on, weathering a downpour of shots before potting one last goal to seal the win.

Alex Tanguay, showcasing great patience, toe-dragged around a sprawling Columbus defenseman before slipping a shot through Sergei Bobrovsky—who replaced McElhinney to start the second period—that trickled into the twine. The play came after an airmail pass from Barrie in the Avalanche end found Tanguay’s stick in the neutral zone, springing the Avs into a rush.

With his third point of the night, Barrie moved into a two-way tie with Shea Weber (43) for eighth place in defensive scoring in the league. Barrie has 10 goals and 33 assists in 63 games, and is only the second Avalanche defenseman in the last eight seasons to top 40 points (John-Michael Liles (46) in 2010-11). Barrie now has 12 points (three goals, eight assists) in his last seven games.


Taking the first game of a back-to-back set on the road, Colorado’s attention quickly turned to playing the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. For the second time in as many meetings, the Avs will face a rested and waiting Wild squad, and these points are paramount if the Avalanche hopes to make the postseason.

“Taking a 3-0 lead was good for us knowing that we play tomorrow night against Minny. It’s a big game for us, and it allowed us also to play everybody tonight,” said Roy. “That could have been the reason why we might have given up a little more shots than we expected, but I was very pleased with the effort.”

“I think it’s going to be good. Last time they were in our barn, I think we played a really good game. Unfortunately, we were on the other end of that,” said Barrie. “But we’ve been playing good hockey lately, and we’ve got a bit of a rivalry going with Minnesota. It’s a fun one to play, so we’re all going to be excited and ready to go for that one.”


MACKINNON SIDELINED

The Avs announced on Friday that sophomore forward Nathan MacKinnon will be out 6-8 weeks with a fractured foot. The injury, which had been nagging MacKinnon since Colorado’s 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 22, was discovered after MacKinnon underwent an MRI on Thursday afternoon.

Nathan MacKinnon

"He had been playing through it for a few games," linemate Gabriel Landeskog said on Friday. "We're all battling through something, and for Nate it ended up being worse than we thought, unfortunately.”

Previous X-rays—following the game against Tampa Bay—had failed to reveal anything.

“He got [hit with] a shot against Tampa, and we had X-rays. The X-rays were negative. Then he got [hit with] another shot against Pittsburgh,” Roy said on Friday. “He came to the practice [Thursday] complaining a bit about it. After practice, he had an MRI, and they revealed that he had the fracture. The doctor made a decision basically that he was out.”

MacKinnon was in the midst of playing his best stretch of hockey of the 2014-15 campaign before being sidelined. The 19-year-old had put home five goals in his last five games—including his first career hat trick versus Tampa Bay—and had nine points in his last 10 contests.

“When you lose a player like Nate, you don’t try to replace him. You just hope that we’re going to find ways to win hockey games,” said Roy after Saturday’s 4-0 victory. “It’s not just Nate. It’s [Erik Johnson], it’s [Jamie] McGinn, it’s [Patrick] Bordeleau, [Ryan] Wilson.

“There’s so many guys right now on our injury list. I think it is important for us to believe in what we’re doing, and I think our mindset is very good right now. This morning, we didn’t skate, but we were all here. The guys seem to be very excited and believe in themselves, which is the kind of mindset as a coach you want to see.”


HAMILTON’S DEBUT

Hamilton

Newly acquired Avalanche center Freddie Hamilton made his Avalanche debut on Saturday night in Columbus. The 23-year-old, who joined the Avs on March 2 in a trade with the San Jose Sharks, played 9:18 in the win, registering two hits and a blocked shot.

Hamilton centered a line between veteran Daniel Briere and Marc-Andre Cliche, filling in for Joey Hishon.

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