Goaltender Jonathan Bernier was signed in the offseason to help provide support if Semyon Varlamov couldn't go, and he's filled in more than admirably in the Varlamov's absence.
Bernier won his fifth consecutive game with a 27-save effort on Saturday night in the Colorado Avalanche's 4-1 victory at the Dallas Stars. The win tied Bernier's career long, as he has won five in a row two previous times, with his last coming March 18-28, 2017.
The Laval, Quebec, native also contributed on the scoresheet with an assist on Colorado's fourth goal of the game.
"I felt pretty good tonight," Bernier said. "I just wanted to play the same way I did before the break and keep things rolling, the good things that we have as a team. It is nice to get rewarded with the apple at the end there."
The three-goal margin of victory by the Avs for their sixth-straight win wasn't nearly as easy as the score might have indicated. The game was tied entering the third period, and it wasn't until Nathan MacKinnon's tally at 6:33 that gave Colorado a lead for the rest of the night. Blake Comeau and Mark Barberio notched markers in the final 100 seconds to seal the win.
"I thought we picked up where we left off before the break," Bernier said. "We played smart. MacK scored a big goal, he just finds a way to put the puck in the net. I thought we played a solid, defensive game as well. Our PK was huge as well, and we came up big in the third there."
Video: COL@DAL: Bernier gloves down Seguin's shot in the 3rd
Bernier was the NHL's second star of the week prior to the Avs going on their bye, as he registered a 3-0-0 record, 1.60 goals-against average and .957 save percentage in three appearances from Jan. 1-7.
The bye didn't seem to affect Bernier early on. He denied Jamie Benn on a breakaway in the opening minutes of the first period and continued his stellar play throughout the game.
Video: COL@DAL: Bernier denies Benn's backhand on breakaway
Dallas began the third period on the power play and ended up with nearly four consecutive minutes of man-advantage time to start the frame. Bernier and the Avs' penalty-kill units kept the game knotted at 1-1, as he made five saves while the Stars attempted 10 total shots during the back-to-back power plays.
"Bernie made some outstanding saves on the penalty kill," said Comeau. "I'm a firm believer that your goaltender is your best penalty killer, and he made some outstanding saves for us."
Colorado finished the contest a perfect 4-on-4 on short-handed situations.
"I think the guys that are playing it, take a lot of pride in that," said Avs head coach Jared Bednar of his penalty kill. "You start to have some success and you want to keep it going. It's a badge of honor for some of those guys on our team. The goaltending, when we needed the saves tonight, especially on the penalty kill, we got it from Berns."
Video: Bednar on the Avs 4-1 win in Dallas
The Avalanche is on its first six-game winning streak since March 25 to April 5, 2014 and now has 23 wins and 49 points this season, surpassing the totals it had last campaign.
"Different group, different mindset," Comeau said of this year's Colorado squad. "We're playing with a lot of confidence, winning games is doing that. I said it before, we had a big turnover, we have some youthful energy. We've had our top line really step up for us. We've had some good goaltending, some good specialty teams and the nice thing is no one is satisfied. We know where we're at in the standings. We see how tight it is and we know how important all these games are."
Video: Bernier on the Avs 4-1 win over the Stars
The Avs can extend their streak on Monday as they host an afternoon game against the Anaheim Ducks for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Bernier is expected to once again take his place between the pipes.
While Colorado has a capable backup goaltender behind Bernier in Andrew Hammond, Bednar has said he's going with Bernier for the time being. Bernier is getting his chance with Varlamov out until at least the All-Star Break with a lower-body injury, and he is aiming to take advantage of it.
"I'm just excited. That is why you play the game, to play some games," Bernier said of presently knowing he's the main keeper for the Avs. "Obviously, it's frustrating when you're not playing, but I want to take this opportunity to play my game and have some fun."
Three Colorado rookies pitched in for the game's opening goal, a slick short-side wrister from Alexander Kerfoot with 5:51 left in the first period.
Defenseman Samuel Girard fed the puck into the neutral zone to A.J. Greer, who then passed it up to Kerfoot. Kerfoot then swiped a hard shot past Denver-born goalie Ben Bishop of the Stars before appearing to get tripped up and flying through the air.
"It was a great play from the D," Greer recalled of the tally. "G won his battle down low, I kind of just pivoted and waited on my way for the pass. Got the pass and Kerfoot was slashing in from the other side. I kind of laid it out for him, and he did the work. It was amazing. Honestly, when he had the puck, I didn't know what he was going to do because he didn't have a lot of space. I thought he was going to shoot, and he cut to the net. He's not a big guy, but he plays big."
Said Kerfoot on his post-goal aerial that finished with him in the opposite corner from his shot: "I went flying after that. I think I just lost balance and was lucky enough to not get hurt."
Video: COL@DAL: Kerfoot shows off speed, scores short side
The marker was Kerfoot's 11th of the season, and he also assisted on Nathan MacKinnon's third-period tally for his 10th multi-point outing of the year--the most among NHL rookies.
Girard's helper extended his point/assist streak to a career-long three games, and he now has six assists in his last six games.
For Greer, the apple was his second of the season and third of his career. He has played 10 NHL games this year and was recalled by the Avs on Thursday after spending most of the team's bye with the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League.
MACKINNON PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon showed why he's heading to the NHL All-Star Game for a second consecutive season later this month.
All stars find a way when the game is in the balance, and MacKinnon did just that with the game-winning goal early in the third period to break a 1-1 tie. His wrist shot from the left circle beat Bishop five hole while he was bringing the puck up the ice on a rush.
Video: COL@DAL: MacKinnon shows off speed, buries quick shot
MacKinnon didn't pick up an assist in the outing, ending his career-high helper streak, but his goal did extend the point stretch to six games, which sets a new season long. He has four goals and six assists during the streak.
The Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, native is now third overall in league scoring with 53 points (19 goals and 34 assists). He dropped down from second place after a two-assist performance from the Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux (54 points) earlier in the day.