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Landeskog Line Leads Comeback Effort

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

It was deja vu for the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night in Arizona, roughly mirroring Saturday’s come-from-behind victory, which began with an early deficit to the opposing team. Yet, just like on Saturday, the Avalanche pushed back against the tilting ice, forcing a tie and, in the case of tonight, a 4-3 win in overtime.

“We were resilient tonight,” said head coach Patrick Roy. “I think that was the story of the night.”

The Avs didn’t pick up the nickname of the ‘comeback kids’ last year for nothing. They earned it with hard work, which was again evident down in the desert at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. As with any turnaround, the game didn’t start out quite the way that the visiting squad had wanted.

Arizona put away the first goal of the game just 3:36 in after Antoine Vermette tipped a point shot from teammate Michael Stone past Reto Berra for the score. The next Coyotes tally came nearly seven minutes later, despite strong play from Colorado, when Stone was again rewarded for throwing a shot on net. This time the puck ricocheted off of rear guard Nick Holden’s glove, changed directions, and snuck past Berra, who was firmly in place for the original trajectory.

Things took a turn for the worse for Berra roughly 30 seconds later when another Arizona shot found twine, and Berra was relieved in favor of Calvin Pickard for the second time in as many contests.

Pickard was up to the challenge yet again, and proceeded to shut the game down as if it was a familiar scene from the classic movie Groundhog Day, just part of his routine. His teammates followed suit.

“We knew what we had to do. We know this is a big game, especially for us in the standings. Couple of tough bounces in the first period didn’t go our way, but we know we’re capable of turning this around,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said of what was discussed after the first 20 minutes of play. “We realize that we’ve got to be better. We haven’t been good enough this season. Lately, it’s been about hard work and getting to the net. Especially for me and [Jarome Iginla], protecting the puck, [using] Nate and [using] his speed and, like I said, [getting] to the net.”

It didn’t take long for the Avs to get something going offensively after that, and it was the potent line helmed by Landeskog that put Colorado on the scoreboard. Superb passing around the zone kept Arizona chasing the puck, and Landeskog finished off a shift of domination with a swift backhand shot—off a rebound from an Erik Johnson attempt—that sent the puck in and out of the net in the blink of an eye.

“They put us back in the game in the second period by scoring that goal,” said Roy, who revealed the message of his first intermission inspirational speech. “I said to the guys, ‘let’s go and win the second period and see where we are after.’ All last year, I was reading a lot of comments on our team [about] how resilient we were. We were playing with no fear and we were always going at the other team, and that’s what we did.”

The motivation seemed to energize the club, as the Avs outscored and outshot Arizona to take the period with them back into the dressing room.

Leading by example yet again, the Landeskog line struck again in the third period when the captain himself was able to sneak another rebound—this time from Nathan MacKinnon—between the legs of Mike Smith and into the twine to put the game within reach.

“Great leadership tonight again,” said Roy. “That line was outstanding against Carolina. They were again tonight. They scored two big goals for us.”

Not content to watch another trio get all of the points, Matt Duchene got himself on the board after he tucked a flipping puck between Smith and the goalpost. Duchene’s elated celebration was the first indication of the scoring chance, but the puck hadn’t actually crossed the line.

Recognizing that the play was still alive, Duchene expertly darted around the net and helped the rubber into the goal, a move that held up upon video review.

For the second time in as many games, the Avalanche had battled back from an early deficit to tie the game in the final frame, and the club decided its own fate—with a little help from the Coyotes—in overtime.

Daniel Briere fired a centering pass across the zone toward Zach Redmond, who had dropped down low looking for his second game-winning goal in as many matches. Before the puck could arrive, Martin Hanzal sticked the pass away and the puck went straight into his own net for the Avalanche victory.

“That’s two games in a row now, coming back,” said Briere, who was again playing with Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly, after the win. “We got the bounces going against us in the first period, and that certainly was a bounce going our way finally.

“Your top two lines have to get you going, and Nate’s line got the first two goals, got us back in the game. Matt got the big goal, the big tying goal, and we found a way to win it.”

The Avalanche returns to action Wednesday night to take on the visiting Chicago Blackhawks at Pepsi Center. The puck drops at 7 p.m. MT.


Pick of the Litter

With back-to-back wins in relief efforts for the Avs, netminder Calvin Pickard has earned the first start of his most recent call-up. It will come on Wednesday night against Chicago.

Calvin Pickard
Goalie  - COL
Record: 2-2-0
GAA: 2.00 | Sv%: .933
“We’re going to go with Pickard tomorrow,” said Roy after Colorado’s win in the desert. “It’s a tough stretch right now for Reto, and [it’s unfortunate] for him but good for us that Calvin is playing well.”

Pickard has gone without allowing an NHL goal through 95:33 of play, which includes 42 straight saves over that span.

“He did a really good job against Carolina the other night, and tonight he was again perfect,” Roy said of the 22-year-old tender. “I have to give it to him. He battles out there, and he competes and certainly deserves a lot of credit for his play right now.”


On a Roll

With his two goals against Arizona, Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog (two goals, four assists) is in the midst of a four-game point streak.

Nathan MacKinnon, who had a career-high three assists on Saturday night, continued to feed his linemates on Tuesday. He picked up a helper on Landeskog’s second goal, increasing his point total to 17—a team high.

Jarome Iginla picked up a pair of assists, moving him into sole possession of 48th place on the NHL all-time points list. Iginla (1181) is now three points behind Rod Brind’Amour (1184).

Danny Briere leads the Avalanche with three game-winning goals this season, and the veteran forward loves getting an opportunity to come up big for his team.

“As a hockey player, you always want more responsibilities. You always want to help out. So when you have the chance, it certainly feels good,” Briere said before chuckling at the incredible comeback effort. “Coming on the road, being down three-nothing and finding a way to win, it could be a big boost moving forward for us.”

Said Roy: “These guys have played hard, and that was a big goal by Briere in overtime.”

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