In the first period of his first game with his new team, Matthias found the back of the net, tying the contest 1-1 after clubbing a rebound through the legs of San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski and into the vacant net.
“I thought we were resilient,” Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy said after the Avalanche’s 4-3 shootout victory. “Down 1-0, we had a big kill. Shawn Matthias scored a big goal for us. It was great play by him. Carl Soderberg put a puck on net, and he picked up the rebound. After that, I thought we had a lot of jump. I thought we played a good game.”
Matthias’ marker gave the Avs some jump after San Jose scored early, fueling what would be a dominant game for Colorado. The home team outshot the Sharks 41-33, out attempted them 64-62 and outscored them 4-3—including 2-0 in the shootout.
“We were great start to finish,” goaltender Calvin Pickard said. “It seemed like we had the puck more. They go ahead 2-1 on that bad bounce at the start of the third, but we just kept sticking with it. We ended up burying a couple, and they got that goal at the end, but [we] always had that feeling we were going to win. It was nice to get the two points.”
“I’m very happy with our performance,” Roy said. “I thought we played a solid game.”
The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Matthias stood out among his teammates and coaches as a key factor in Wednesday’s win.
“The fact that we have a guy like Matthias in the lineup gives us four good lines,” said Roy. “It allows me to play anybody against anybody, basically. Sometimes you want to create a spark and get a goal. It allowed me to match the first line against their third pairing, and it forced them to keep their No. 1 and 2 pairings on the ice more.”
“He was great all night, on the forecheck, working hard, and he got rewarded for it,” Pickard added. “It’s a great addition for our team.”
Despite having only one morning skate, essentially a light practice, under his belt, Matthias seemed to fit right in alongside Soderberg and Blake Comeau.
“Feels great. Our line was buzzing,” Matthias said after the contest. “It’s the first game, so there’s a couple mistakes out there, but it felt good overall to be out there playing hard, playing for games that matter. It was a great team win.
“It feels great to get the two points. We’re fighting for that playoff spot. I came here to try and help the team get there, and it feels great to get the two points and to also contribute. Our line did some good things, and that’s a huge win right there.”
Although he didn’t show it, Matthias admitted that he was feeling the altitude in his first match in the Mile High City.
“I’m tired, [got in] late last night,” he said. “There was a couple shifts, especially early on, where I lost my wind and I couldn’t really get it back. The guys were helping me through it as much as they could, but it’s going to take some getting used to. It’s different being this high up, with the oxygen, but it is what it is. Everyone’s in the same boat when they come here, but it feels good to have those two points.”
This battle-through-it effort didn’t go unnoticed nor unappreciated by Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog.
“I think he had a really strong game. Obviously, it hasn’t been easy for him the last couple days with a lot of travel and lack of sleep and coming to altitude and things like that,” Landeskog said. “I think he did a great job of just finding a way to grind it out, and I think he fit really well in that line with Soderberg and Comeau. He’s really strong on the puck. He’s big and he’s physical. I think he fit really well on that line.”
With the playoffs in reach, Matthias offered an outsider’s perspective on the state of the Avalanche.
“It’s an unbelievably skilled team here,” he admitted. “A great group of guys. They play hard. Some of the things they do; I know in the past, playing against this team I’ve had trouble just because the skill level. There’s some great players here. Watching them tonight, this is a team that could do some damage.”
SHOOTOUT AT THE PICKARD CORRAL
Shawn Matthias wasn’t the only Avalanche player earning praise after the Avalanche’s 4-3 shootout victory. Goalie Calvin Pickard backstopped the club to an important win and key points in Colorado’s push for the postseason.
“He was outstanding. He played really well,” Patrick Roy said of his netminder. “The first goal was a great shot. The second goal I thought was simply bad luck, and then the third one, they made a great play. It was a beautiful pass by [Joe] Thornton on that play.
“I thought he was sharp. He looked confident, and he made the key saves at the right moments. He was outstanding in overtime and the shootout.”
Regulation was one thing, but the back-and-forth, run-and-gun overtime was another animal entirely, and Pickard was phenomenal in the extra frame.
“You know you’re going to have to make some saves, regardless of what happens,” he said of the frenetic bonus hockey. “There’s always breakdowns. You’ve got to figure there’s a lot of open ice. I just tried to take advantage when I was called upon, and there was a couple saves there but the guys played pretty good, sound defense 3-on-3. It was nice.”
With his equalizer in the second period while the Avs were on the man advantage, veteran forward Jarome Iginla became the first Avalanche player to score 11 power-play goals in a season since 2006-07, when Joe Sakic (16), Milan Hejduk (12) and Paul Stastny (11) did it.
Iginla’s marker was the 188th power-play tally of his career, tying him with Ron Francis for 22nd place on the NHL’s all-time list.
The 38-year-old has a five-game point streak (three goals, three assists) going and leads the Avs with 12 points (five goals, 8 assists) in 11 games this month.