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Pickard Strong In 2-1 Loss

by Ryan Boulding / Colorado Avalanche

Twenty-three-year-old Calvin Pickard has been the goalie of record for the last three Colorado Avalanche contests, taking command of the crease while fellow netminder Semyon Varlamov has been absent from the lineup.

During that time, he’s given the Avalanche a chance to win each night.

It was no different on Tuesday as the Avs came out of the All-Star break with a match against the Chicago Blackhawks at Pepsi Center.

While the home team lost a close 2-1 decision, it was Pickard who kept the score tight while the rest of the team struggled to find it’s legs.

“Picks made some great saves,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said after the loss. “We were very sloppy in the start of the game. We didn’t have a good start. It’s hard to win a hockey game when you have two forwards having shots after 40 minutes of play. [Carl] Soderberg had three, [Gabriel] Landeskog had one. I thought we did better in the third period, but we exchanged chances. That’s not the type of hockey we want to play. I thought we were lucky to be in that one tonight.”

Landeskog tallied on his first shot of the night to split the early Chicago lead, and the Avalanche surged back with a 15-shot third period but the effort wasn’t enough.

Pickard meanwhile faced an onslaught of shots, turning aside a season-high 40 on the night and tracking a total of 83 attempts in all.

“They could have gotten seven or eight tonight…if Pickard didn’t play so well for us,” center Nathan MacKinnon said. “We just laid an egg, and that definitely is unacceptable at this time of the season. The last 30 games, to come out with an effort like that is unacceptable, like I said.”

“They had breakaways. They had a few good chances in the third,” Roy said. “He kept us in, gave us a chance to come back in the game. We had our chances.”

While the result isn’t what Colorado was looking for, Pickard was pleased with keeping the contest close for the duration.

“It wasn’t a great start, getting in a 2-0 hole, but I thought I stuck with it,” Pickard said, providing a self-evaluation. “I think there was 42 shots, but I think a lot of them were from the outside. The guys were clearing lanes for me, but we just came up short. It was close right to the end.”

Chicago used a balanced attack to keep the pressure on the Avalanche, averaging 14 shots per period in an effort to gain two precious Central Division points. The pace, although tiring, worked for Pickard.

“You kind of get into a rhythm when there’s shots coming quite frequently,” the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native said. “It was kind of an early and often type thing tonight. But like I said, it was from the outside. I saw most of them, and that makes a big difference.”

The Avs refused to use the All-Star sabbatical as an excuse for the slow start on Tuesday.

“They had the same break,” MacKinnon said. “It was even, we’re at home. We should have the upper hand if anything. We weren’t ready to play, and it’s unfortunate.”

“Like I said to the guys, sometimes you have to find ways to win an ugly one and we had to find a way,” Roy added. “We just couldn’t get that goal that would tie the game.”


JOHNSON’S 500TH GAME

Blueliner Erik Johnson made his NHL debut on Oct. 4, 2007, at the Phoenix Coyotes and registered a point in that first game, albeit in a St. Louis Blues sweater. It was only fitting that he did the same with the Avalanche on Tuesday, assisting on Landeskog’s lone tally in his 500th career contest.

The milestone, although it came slower than he would have anticipated, was something Johnson spoke fondly of prior to

Erik Johnson
Defense  - COL
Goals: 55 | Assists: 156 | Pts: 211
Shots: 1,047 | +/-: -24
the game against Chicago.

“Injuries kind of slowed me down a little bit as far as games played,” he said following morning skate. “I think I’ve missed over a hundred with injuries. It should probably be closer to 650 or something like that… but that happens to everybody. There’s periods of time where it goes by fast and periods of time where it feels slow, but it’s been fun the whole time and that’s all you can ask for.”

When he took the ice at 7 p.m., Johnson became the first blueliner from the 2006 draft class to have skated in 500 matches and just the 72nd American-born rear guard in NHL history to do so.

“It’s nice to definitely hit that, especially being an American guy, growing up in Minnesota,” said Johnson. “Not too many American defenseman have even played that many games, so I just want to keep going and continue to play well and play as many games as I can.

“It goes by pretty fast.”

Johnson now has 211 points (55 goals, 156 assists).


LANDY HEATING UP

Although he hasn’t had the flashy kind of campaign like that of teammate Matt Duchene, Colorado’s captain is still among the best on the team at producing points this season.

Landeskog’s first-period tally in the 2-1 loss to Chicago marked his fourth in as many games, moving the young Swede into third place on the team in goals (14) and points (36-tied).

Landeskog has been relatively consistent in finding the scoresheet this year as the longest drought he’s seen has been four games (twice).

His most extensive scoring stretch of the season was a five-game point streak (two goals, six assists) spanning Nov. 19-28, after he returned from a two-match suspension.

Landeskog finished Tuesday’s tilt with four shots—including a prime scoring chance from the slot in the waning minutes of play—and three hits in 17:20 of ice time.

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