The 2016-17 season has been one that the Colorado Avalanche will surely want to forget, but it was a memorable year for goaltender Jeremy Smith.
After seven-plus seasons in the minor leagues, Smith finally made his NHL debut and appeared in 10 games for the Avs.
On Saturday night at the Dallas Stars, Smith was in a contest that he equally won't soon forget.
Smith made a career-high 42 saves in the Avalanche's 4-3 shootout loss that featured a weird ending in what was the Stars' final regular-season game.
Dallas thought it had scored the game-winner with 1:06 left in OT, starting a celebration at American Airlines Center while some of Colorado's players left the ice for the locker room. But the Avalanche challenged that the Stars were offside when they entered the zone on the scoring sequence, and video review ultimately showed that Tyler Seguin was in deed in the offensive end before the puck.
"That was a roller coaster, for sure," Smith said. "It wasn't great when we let that puck in in overtime, but we were walking down the hallway and they kept reviewing it and we were all in here and they were like, 'Alright, no goal. Offside.' So we all put our stuff back on and went back out there, and we had another chance."
Back to the ice came the Avs, looking to reward Smith for his hard work and get him the victory. Despite some chances, they weren't able to do it as Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen couldn't beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen in the shootout, and Seguin got redemption by scoring the Stars' lone marker in the tiebreaker.
"I had an idea on what they were going to do," said Smith, who took part in his first-ever NHL overtime and shootout contest. "Seguin just out-waited me a little bit and then put it perfectly under my glove. Then I read [Jamie] Benn pretty well. Unfortunately, we didn't get one at the other end, but nothing I can control."
Smith was on his game early as Dallas outshot Colorado 18-4 in the opening frame and took a 1-0 lead on Devin Shore's clean-up goal in the crease.
"The first period, we didn't play well at all. I thought Smitty did a real good job of keeping us in that game, obviously," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. "We started to gain some traction as the game went on, and I didn't mind the way we played for most of the second and the third."
The Stars scored an early power-play goal to begin the second stanza, but the Avs started to chip away and soon erased the two-goal deficit and took the lead in the third period after three different redirections from Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and MacKinnon.
"I think we had a garbage first period," said defenseman Tyson Barrie. "We talked about it after the first, and I think we did a much better job that (second) period. Smith made some great saves."
Dallas would get its own goal on a deflection with 6:16 remaining to tie what had already been a roller-coaster game.
Smith finished regulation with 38 saves on 41 shots against, both stats that would have set new career highs if Saturday's contest ended there. His previous best came in his first NHL game on Feb. 14 when he had a 37-stop performance at the New Jersey Devils.
He denied four more shots in OT, including two 2-on-0 breakaways for Dallas, one before and one after the offside ruling.
"I was feeling pretty good," Smith said following the contest. "They made a couple nice plays on the goals, but for me, it was just a battle. I felt good. I felt comfortable. It's all a process and I'm enjoying it."
However, despite the tremendous effort, Smith's second NHL win remains elusive, although he did nearly all he could to get it.
"I thought Smitty played real well for us tonight," Bednar said. "Probably deserved a better fate if we could have played better in front of him."
Smith likely played his last game of the season on Saturday as goalie Calvin Pickard is expected to get the start on Sunday in the Avalanche's season finale at the St. Louis Blues, but it has certainly been quite the ride for Smith in his first NHL campaign.
RANTANEN RETURNS TO LINEUP
Rookie Mikko Rantanen made an impact in his return to the lineup on Saturday as he tallied his team-leading 19th goal of the season, jumpstarting the Avs' comeback.
Rantanen had missed the previous two games with a lower-body injury; the first contests he's missed since joining Colorado on Oct. 28.
"I was skating this morning, and I was trying to do a little bit more game style," Rantanen said. "I felt pretty good so I'm good to go."
The Nousiainen, Finland, native's tally came on a deflection from a slap shot by Tyson Barrie that began a three-goal run for Colorado.
Rantanen now has 37 points (19 goals and 18 assists) in 74 games during his freshman campaign.
Prior to his recent injury, the only other outings Rantanen missed with the Avs were the first five while in the American Hockey League with the San Antonio Rampage. The young Finn missed the Avalanche's entire training camp and preseason with an ankle injury and began the season in the AHL to get back up to game speed.
BIG POINTS AGAINST BIG D
It shouldn't be a surprise that forward Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Tyson Barrie picked up points against the Dallas Stars. They do nearly every game versus the Avalanche's Central Division foe.
Landeskog scored his 18th goal of the year and now has 21 points (nine goals and 12 assists) in 22 career contests against Dallas.
The tally by the Colorado captain also extended his point streak to four games (three goals, one assist), tied for his longest of the season (Feb. 4-11).
Barrie had his sixth multi-point game of the year with two assists on Saturday. He is in sole possession of third place on the Avs in scoring this year with 38 points and now has 17 points (four goals and 13 assists) in 17 career outings versus the Stars.