The Colorado Avalanche grinded out a win in front of a sold-out MTS Centre, playing solid defensively, working hard offensively and scoring a couple ugly ones in a 4-1 victory over the Jets on Monday night.
Leading the charge was the Avs' resident gritty forward, Cody McLeod. A Manitoba native, McLeod had a fight, three shots and tallied the go-ahead goal early in the third period. He almost had has first career Gordie Howe hat trick as well. The initial scoring on Blake Comeau's empty-netter gave McLeod an assist, but after review, the off-ice officials determined Francois Beauchemin touched the puck and earned the secondary assist.
Nevertheless, the left wing from Binscarth set the tone for the evening.
"He was outstanding," Matt Duchene said of McLeod. "He led the way in a lot of areas tonight."
The Jets are known for playing a physical game, and the Avs went nearly toe-to-toe with them. Winnipeg finished with a 22-17 edge in hits while both clubs each had three penalties.
"Tonight was a good test for us," McLeod said. "Winnipeg is a good, physical team and you know every time you come in here it's going to be a battle. For the most part, we answered the bell."
McLeod had quite the first period, which began with an early trip to the penalty box after a fight with Chris Thorburn just 1:46 into the contest.
Shortly after leaving the box, McLeod had a breakaway opportunity but was stopped by Michael Hutchinson's right pad. Later in the period, he got a rebound off a shot by Comeau, but again he couldn't bury it past the Jets netminder.
He finally got the puck across the goal line at 6:45 of the final period on a redirection of Zach Redmond's shot from the slot for his fifth tally of the season.
"I had a couple chances in the first period that I didn't bear down on. You look at the goals in the league now, you go to the net, they're usually rebounds," McLeod said. "Great play by [Comeau], feeding Redmond in the slot there. He shot on net, and I was just driving and it went off my leg."
It was a typical McLeod play—a hardworking sequence in the dirty areas of the ice—and he was rewarded.
"He's always like this. He's a warrior for us," head coach Patrick Roy said. "He's a guy that plays with a lot of passion. He's a great leader in this dressing room and brings a lot for this club."
Colorado opened its scoring on a less-than-highlight-worthy goal with 3:17 left in the second period to tie the contest 1-1. Carl Soderberg drove to the Winnipeg net from the right side before losing the puck and having it go off Jets defenseman Tyler Myers and into the cage.
Soderberg's line, which included McLeod and Comeau, finished with three goals on 11 shots.
"I thought they did a good job," Roy said of the trio. "They scored a big goal on the power play (Soderberg's tally) and sometimes when you bring pucks to the net, good things happen to us and that's exactly what happened."
Matt Duchene gave the Avs a two-goal advantage with a pretty tally between the legs of Hutchinson late in the final period, and Comeau sealed the game with an empty-net score with 1:10 remaining.
DUCHENE TIES MONTH GOAL RECORD
Matt Duchene has done something that has only been achieved once in the last 20 years of Avs hockey.
The Colorado forward recorded his 10th goal in the month of November on Monday, tying Claude Lemieux for the most in the month in Avalanche history. Lemieux accomplished the feat in 13 games during the Avs' inaugural season in Denver in 1995-96. Duchene reached the 10-goal mark in 11 contests, and he still has three more left to break the record before the calendar turns to December.
Duchene's team-leading 11th marker of the season made the score 3-1 and gave the Avs some insurance against the Jets with 3:49 left in the third stanza.
"Gabe [Landeskog] did a great job in the neutral zone, kind of protecting the puck and waiting," Duchene said. "Tyson [Barrie], once he got it, I was screaming at him and [he] made a great pass, and I was able to take it wide and open [Hutchinson] enough five-hole to get it through."
The tally also extended Duchene's point streak to seven games, with him totaling 13 points during the stretch (seven goals and six assists).
VARLAMOV MAKES HIS RETURN
Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov wasn't tested much in his return to the crease, but he was up to the challenge when he was.
The Russian netminder made 20 saves on 21 shots on Monday against Winnipeg and won his first game since Nov. 3 versus the Calgary Flames.
"He played really well," Roy said of his goalie. "He made the good save at the right time when he had to."
Varlamov's last outing was Nov. 5 at Arizona. He backed up Reto Berra for the next two games against the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers before missing the last five games because of injury. He hurt his groin prior to the contest in Philadelphia on Nov. 10.
"I felt pretty good actually. Energy wise, I feel really good," Varlamov said. "I've been working a lot on my conditioning to stay in shape. Every time, I work with my strength and conditioning coach extra, so I felt pretty good."
Varlamov began skating again last Tuesday in Toronto and was activated from the club's injured-reserve list on Sunday.
The only puck to get past him in his return came on a shot from the high slot by Toby Enstrom at 13:40 of the first period.
"I didn't see it," Varlamov said. "I think it hit somebody in front of me, and I kind of missed the shot."
BIRTHDAY VICTORY IN GAME 300
Gabriel Landeskog received the gift he wanted for his birthday, an Avalanche victory.
"Getting the win would be the biggest thing, no doubt," Landeskog said after Monday's morning skate at MTS Centre. "I think it is focusing on coming off a road trip 4-3, instead of 3-4. That's what we're going to focus on and getting the win would be a great birthday present."
Landeskog also picked up a point versus the Jets, contributing an assist on Duchene's insurance goal late in the third period to help the Avs close out their season-long seven-game road trip with a win. The team had dropped its previous three contests after starting the trip 3-0.
Monday marked the Avalanche captain's golden birthday as he was born on Nov. 23, 1992, and turned 23 years old.
The contest against Winnipeg also marked the 300th of the young Swede's NHL career.
"You don't really think about it," he said of hitting the 300-game mark. "It's not really anything you focus on. It's nothing that you really keep track of. Obviously now that it is here, I guess it is something that you look back at and say, 'Wow, that happened fast.'"
Selected No. 2 overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, Landeskog made his debut in the league on Oct. 8, 2011, against Detroit as an 18-year-old. He was named team captain prior to the following season and has worn the 'C' on his chest for the past four years. The Stockholm, Sweden, native has compiled 85 goals and 123 assists with the Avs.